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Question Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info ( AVS Forum HDTV Programming )
Updated: 2008-05-24 04:15:06 (25442)
Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

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? Post #2 - Current Ratings
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Answers: Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info ( AVS Forum HDTV Programming )
Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Weekly Cable Ratings
For Second Week, ESPN Fails to Top Prime Ratings
By Anthony Crupi Media Week Dec. 19, 2006

For the second consecutive week, ESPN failed to win the prime time cable ratings crown, placing third behind a resurgent USA Network and the non-ad-supported Disney Channel.

According to Nielsen Media Research data, for the week ended Dec. 17 USA averaged 2.55 million total viewers and a 2.1 household rating in prime, beating out Disney (2.44 million/2.0 HH rating) and ESPN (2.27 million/1.9 HH rating).

ESPN retained the top spot for all individual programs on ad-supported cable last week, delivering 11.18 million viewers with its Monday Night Football match-up between the NFC’s likely representative in Super Bowl XLI, the Chicago Bears, and the rebuilding St. Louis Rams.

For its part, USA delivered cable’s second-largest audience last week, averaging 4.88 million viewers Monday night between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. with its WWE Raw franchise. Meanwhile, The NFL Network, which is available in just over 41 million homes, managed to scare up a proportionately huge audience of 4.14 million viewers Saturday night with its coverage of the Dallas Cowboys-Seattle Seahawks showdown, taking the second largest program share of the week (11.0).

Other nets that served up significant prime time numbers were: TBS, which averaged 4.25 million viewers with its Sunday night presentation of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Disney, which averaged 4.04 million viewers on Saturday night with the Tim Allen theatrical The Santa Clause.

Rounding out the top five ad-supported nets last week were: ABC Family and Lifetime, virtually tied for third with an average prime time audience of 2.14 million; TNT (2.11 million) and TBS (1.89 million).



Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Technology Notebook
Nielsen Study Shows DVD Players (Finally!) Surpass VCRs
Most Media Technology Trending Up, According to Nielsen’s Quarterly Home Tech Study
(Nielsen Media Services news release)

December 19, 2006 -- NEW YORK - Nielsen Media Research released findings today from its 3rd Quarter Home Technology Report which show that more U.S. households now own DVD players (81.2% of all households) than VCRs (79.2% of households). Findings from this quarterly study also show ownership of most media technology trending up from previous years, which could continue to climb as the upcoming Christmas season approaches.

As of third quarter 2006, DVD penetration in the U.S. is up 6% from the previous year and continues to grow, while VCR penetration has started a decline. In 1999 when Nielsen first started tracking DVD ownership in its Home Tech Report, DVD penetration was only 6.7% and was dwarfed by VCR ownership at 88.6%.

Nielsen's latest report also found that DVD households now rent DVDs about twice per month, compared to VCR homes renting VHS tapes only about once per month. The frequency with which households rent video tapes has leveled off during the past six months.

?This study shows the culmination of a long battle for share of consumers,? said Paul Lindstrom, senior vice president of custom research for Nielsen Media Research. ?Nielsen clients have used information from our Home Tech Report for the past decade to trend the changes in penetration and report use of new devices as they infiltrate the marketplace, and we now see that the popularity of DVDs has finally surpassed that of VCRs.?

Some additional topline findings from Nielsen's Home Tech study include:

? Computers -- 73.4% of U.S. homes currently have a computer in the household, and homes with children and teens are more likely to have a home computer. There is a large difference in the percentage of lower income homes vs. higher income homes that own a home computer. Homes with an income over $60K are 50% more likely to own a home computer than homes with an income below $60K.

? Internet - 95.4% of consumers with Internet access go online at least once a week, and 37.3% of Internet users go online more than once a day. 78.2% of online users have made purchases over the Internet. 46.8% of online users (ages 12+) have used the Internet to download and play music from the Internet.

? MP3 Players - 26.7% of U.S. homes own or rent an MP3 player. Households with the presence of children 12-17 years of age are nearly 2 ? times more likely to own or rent an MP3 player than compared to the Total U.S. The percentage of homes owning an MP3 player has risen by 149.5% since 3rd Quarter 2003.

? PDA - 16.4% of U.S. homes own a PDA, and since 3rd quarter 2003, PDA ownership has increased by 4.5%. Not surprisingly, higher income homes are more than four times as likely as lower income homes to own a PDA.


Nielsen's Home Technology Report is a primary research survey conducted by phone with 1,253 randomly selected American homes four times per year. Issued quarterly to Nielsen clients as a supplement to their syndicated TV ratings service, for the past 10 years the Home Tech Report has been Nielsen's gauge of the penetration and usage of technology into American households.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

It was Cowboys-Falcons, not Cowboys-Seahawks, on NFL Network this past Saturday night.

And I really don't buy the notion from ESPN that their talk coverage isn't dictated by the sports they cover. Their Olympics coverage, unless I'm mistaken, has always been anemic. I wouldn't be surprised if they unveiled a new NASCAR analysis show ala Baseball Tonight to go hand in hand with their new NASCAR package next season (or a similar weekly-recap Arena Primetime to go with this new Arena package). Likewise, I'm sure their golf coverage will decline even more now that they don't have golf events to telecast.

We're not that naive, Mr. Skipper.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Last week’s updated top 10 prime-time program ratings are now toward the bottom of RATINGS NEWS -- the first post in this thread.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Last week’s complete network average prime-time results (with demographic averages) are now at the bottom of RATINGS NEWS the first post in this thread.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Originally Posted by URFloorMatt
It was Cowboys-Falcons, not Cowboys-Seahawks, on NFL Network this past Saturday night.

And I really don't buy the notion from ESPN that their talk coverage isn't dictated by the sports they cover. Their Olympics coverage, unless I'm mistaken, has always been anemic. I wouldn't be surprised if they unveiled a new NASCAR analysis show ala Baseball Tonight to go hand in hand with their new NASCAR package next season (or a similar weekly-recap Arena Primetime to go with this new Arena package). Likewise, I'm sure their golf coverage will decline even more now that they don't have golf events to telecast.

We're not that naive, Mr. Skipper.

Good points, URFloorMatt -- and a nice catch on the NFL Newtork game participants!

Welcome to the thread, and keep contributing!


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Thanks, fred. I've been reading for a few months now, but I signed up to post questions in my local Adelphia/Comcast and FiOS threads, so now I may participate every now and then in this thread as well.

I really enjoy it. You and all the other contributors do a great job posting interesting programming and industry news. It's a welcome distraction. Keep up the great work!


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

I am curious, Matt. Do you subscribe to FiOS -- and if so, what has been your experience with it?


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Originally Posted by dad1153

TV Notebook
AMC remaking 'The Prisoner'
Cable network to produce remake of classic show
By Denise Martin, Variety December 18, 2006

AMC is remaking 1960s sci-fi cult fave "The Prisoner."
Well, I can tell you that it will be superbly acted. It will star Christopher Eccleston who was "fantastic" (pun intended) as the 9th Doctor Who... or so I heard many months ago. (Eccleston will also be showing up on Heroes early next year.)


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Weekly Network News Ratings
Williams Leads, but Gibson is Closing In
By Anne Becker Broadcasting & Cable 12/19/2006

For the second week in a row, NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams was No. 1 in viewers last week, but ABC's World News with Charles Gibson won in news' adults 25-54 demo.

During the week of Dec. 11, Nightly averaged 9.02 million total viewers to World News' 8.45 million, according to Nielsen Media Research. But ABC edged out NBC in the demo by about 30,000 viewers (2.67 million v. 2.64 million, which was close enough to give them an equal 2.2 rating/8 share).

CBS' Evening News with Katie Couric came in third with 7.47 million total viewers and 2.27 million in the demo (a 1.9/7).



Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Originally Posted by pwrmetal
Well, I can tell you that it will be superbly acted. It will star Christopher Eccleston who was "fantastic" (pun intended) as the 9th Doctor Who... or so I heard many months ago. (Eccleston will also be showing up on Heroes early next year.)
Gotta' say I'm with ol' Dad on this one. I don't care who they cast. Look, 'Battlestar Galactica' needed a remake. 'The Prisoner' doesn't. That series was one mamafracking, mindbending masterpiece. The story behind the scenes, what Patrick McGoohan intended the series to say, and what he went through to get it made, is fascinating as well.

Can't they ever leave well enough alone?


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Originally Posted by fredfa
Weekly Cable Ratings
For Second Week, ESPN Fails to Top Prime Ratings
By Anthony Crupi Media Week Dec. 19, 2006

For the second consecutive week, ESPN failed to win the prime time cable ratings crown, placing third behind a resurgent USA Network and the non-ad-supported Disney Channel.
Since when is the Disney Channel non-ad supported.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Originally Posted by fredfa
I am curious, Matt. Do you subscribe to FiOS -- and if so, what has been your experience with it?
They're coming to do the install on the 29th. Switching to their internet service won't be a problem, but I'm somewhat leary of the FiOS TV install because I'm unsure of the quality of the cable wiring in my house.

We'll see. It'd be nice to have NFL Network HD in time for the Redskins game the next day, since I'm in an Adelphia-to-Comcast area and they're not broadcasting the NFL HD games on INHD for whatever reason. Then again, the HD version is probably on local television anyway. I haven't had a chance to check yet.

Regardless, the irony is that I can switch to Verizon, double the number of cable boxes I need (because FiOS doesn't have an equivalent basic cable package), vastly improve my picture quality and clarity across all my sets, and still save over $10 a month. Competition is a good thing.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

So I guess the Gramys is not in HD tonight?


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Originally Posted by theratpatrol
So I guess the Gramys is not in HD tonight?
It is.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Originally Posted by theratpatrol
So I guess the Gramys is not in HD tonight?
Nope. I'm almost glad. It makes the decision to watch it on the east coast feeds much easier. If I had to choose between live and HD, it would be a tough choice.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

I undersood it would be in HD...but I won't see the show for three hours.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Originally Posted by fredfa
NCIS: The most popular show nobody talks about
I enjoy NCIS too. It's not remotely realistic, but it's great fun.

A short sea story:

About a hundred years ago when NCIS was just NIS (the name changed after a series of screwed up investigations and bad publicity) I happened to be in the Philippines where the command hosting me dropped the ball on my accommodations.

As a result, I found myself walking into a transit barracks room full of Marines. They looked up at me and collectively asked, "What the hell are you?" I was tired and a bit grumpy but replied promptly…whereupon they all but ran for the door and disappeared. I realized too late that they thought I said, ?I'm NIS!?

Such is the power of a guilty conscious, but I had no complaints because I had room to myself for the next 3 days.

So I thank the underappreciated folks at NCIS.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Great story AAF!

It is sad to me that NCIS seems to skew so solidly to older viewers. I suspect younger ones would enjoy it, too.

It ain't a cure for world hunger, but, as you noted, it can be a lot of fun.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

By the way, from what I read in the Grammys post, the awards are in HD, and from all accounts the PQ and audio are pretty spectacular.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Originally Posted by fredfa
By the way, from what I read in the Grammys post, the awards are in HD, and from all accounts the PQ and audio are pretty spectacular.

Oh well, I'll be watching live in SD. I miss my east coast HD feeds.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

The surprising thing for me about NCIS (versus Extreme Makeover) is that NCIS sits in a brutal time period and has weathered years of both American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. And sometimes House.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Never missed an episode, and yes, it can be a bit hokey, but isn't that what some TV is supposed to be? With shows like NCIS, I don't need sitcoms. NCIS gives me some drama, some action, some love interest, and some comedy, what more could I want?


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Technology Notebook
Behind the Flat Screen Price Slashes
The No-Name Brand Behind the Latest Price War
By Damon Darlin The New York Times February 12, 2007

If his Olevia line of televisions was ever going to get any attention from consumers, Vincent F. Sollitto Jr. would have to do something big, splashy and, in economic terms, just plain crazy.

On the day after Thanksgiving, Mr. Sollitto, the chairman and chief executive of Syntax-Brillian, had 32-inch Olevia liquid-crystal display TV sets selling at Circuit City for $475, almost half its regular price.

Syntax almost certainly lost money on the TVs. The flat screen that makes up about half the cost of an L.C.D. TV is about $350 on its own. But Mr. Sollitto could not have been more pleased. The Olevias outsold Sony and other brands while they lasted. That forced the premium brands to lower prices throughout the holiday season and take notice of the upstart from Tempe, Ariz.

?I think we are being annoying to those guys at the moment,? he said. ?We are going to be on that radar screen soon if we aren’t there already.?

In the battle for market share in big-screen TVs, there is a lot of pain to go around as prices drop sharply. Circuit City, for instance, lured a lot of customers into its stores with the promotion. But last Thursday it said it would have to close about 70 stores because of slim profit margins on televisions and other products. Profits at almost all of the major TV makers are down.

The only ones not getting hurt are consumers, who enjoyed sliding prices on HDTVs in 2006. They are likely to see a rerun of the same action in 2007 as prices are expected to fall further by 40 percent or more. For that they can thank the low-price brands like Syntax’s Olevia.

?It does impact the business,? said Bruce Tripido, senior director of marketing for Sharp’s entertainment products. ?They’ve accelerated the price compression and the reduction in profitability for everyone across the board.?

Of course, Olevia does not have the luxury of the name recognition enjoyed by Sharp and others. ?A year ago we were nobody,? Mr. Sollitto said. ?We were just trying to get people to hear our story.?

That is starting to change. Viewers of ESPN’s high-definition cable channels and its other media outlets are more familiar with the brand after a spate of advertising. Consumer Reports magazine recently rated an Olevia a best buy, along with a Sony.

Mr. Sollitto, a 21-year veteran of I.B.M. who later worked at a succession of other high-tech companies, predicted that Olevia would become a top-tier brand.

Jonathan Dorsheimer, vice president of equity research at Canaccord Adams, said this was ?an achievable goal? for the company. He said Syntax had already garnered about 4 percent of the United States market, even though until late last year its sales were confined to regional electronics stores and online vendors, which make up only about 40 percent of the total market.

The company could increase its share to 7.5 percent of the United States market as it moves into the big stores, said John Vinh, a senior research analyst at C. E. Unterberg Towbin.

This year, Olevia TVs are in Circuit City, Office Depot and Kmart stores and will soon be in Target’s revamped electronics departments. Best Buy is experimenting with selling the brand online. The company expects to sell slightly more than a million TVs in the fiscal year.

There are about 80 brands in the crowded American market for L.C.D. televisions, most of them value-priced. Olevia’s competitors include Vizio, which has had success selling through Wal-Mart and Costco, and a number of brands recycled from yesteryear, when the United States still made televisions: Zenith, Emerson, Sylvania, Westinghouse and Magnavox

With the exception of Zenith, which has become the value brand of the Korean company LG, these brands are used by ?virtual companies? that, like Syntax, contract with assemblers to build the TVs.

Syntax, though, has attracted the interest of investors because it is the only publicly traded TV-focused company in the United States. Its shares shot up from $2.02 in May to a 52-week-high of $11.70 in early January.

It has fallen since then and dropped 15 percent on Thursday after Mr. Sollitto issued a more conservative forecast for revenue growth — a tripling of revenue in its 2007 fiscal year ending June 30.

Mr. Vinh said investors’ expectations had run ahead of reality, and he brushed off the drop in price. He is forecasting that the shares, which closed at $8.11 on Friday, will go to $14 a share, and the handful of other analysts following the company remain optimistic. ?The company is in hypergrowth mode,? Mr. Vinh said. ?That’s a good problem to have.?

Mr. Sollitto is essentially taking a ride on the falling prices of flat panels, the main component in the TVs, and the drop has steepened because of a glut. It owns no factories, but buys the panels and has contracts with four manufacturers to assemble the televisions. This keeps costs down but is risky because the company does not control the supply of parts.

Right now that does not matter so much. While there is high demand for L.C.D. TVs and only eight suppliers of the flat panels that are the main component of L.C.D.’s, many of the independent factories in Taiwan are not running at full capacity. To reach greater efficiency and better economies of scale, they offer a lower price to anyone who commits to buying a lot of panels.

For example, the price of a 37-inch panel has fallen to $476, from $690 a year ago. Sweta Dash, an analyst who tracks panel prices for the market information company iSuppli, expects them to drop to $375 by June, presaging even bigger discounting at the retail level for those TVs in the next few months.

The three biggest names in the business, Sony, Sharp and Samsung, which hold about a third of the market, declined to comment on Olevia. Jonas Tanenbaum, Samsung’s vice president of visual display marketing, noted that ?there has always been a disruptive force in the market.? Indeed, 15 years ago Samsung was the scrappy company building credibility.

?The off-brands are residing in a price band where we are simply not going to reside,? said Mr. Tripido of Sharp. His company has considered selling a value-priced TV, which would not carry the Sharp name.

Instead, Sharp’s strategy is to produce panels in its advanced plants in larger sizes, like 46, 52 and 65 inches, where the value brands cannot compete. (It also has a 108-inch TV coming.) Then it prices aggressively.

?The pricing was incredible right out of the chute? with the new sets, said Eric Haruki, an analyst with IDC, a market research company. ?The big guys made pricing moves on their own.?

The result is a smaller price gap between the premium names and the value brands, creating a future risk for Syntax. Right now the average price of a 32-inch L.C.D. TV from a lesser-known brand like Olevia is $834, while a premium brand like Sharp sells for $1,217. Riddhi Patel, an analyst at iSuppli who tracks the overall market, predicts that by Christmas the prices will be more like $600 versus $850.

When the margin is only $150 to $200, Ms. Patel said, a shopper is more apt to shrug off the difference and choose the recognized brand name.

?We will be prepared for what’s coming, and that’s a very aggressive price reduction throughout the year,? Mr. Sollitto said.

As consumers develop a sweet spot for even bigger TVs, Olevia is pushing to sell 42-, 47- and 52-inch sets, some of them in the higher-resolution 1080p standard.

Mr. Sollitto said brand recognition becomes more important as the price difference between a top brand and his brand narrows. ?The advertising makes a difference,? Mr. Sollitto said. ?People are looking for a brand.? That explains why Olevia spent $2.4 million on advertising in the last three months, a tenfold increase in its ad budget.

Syntax has lined up three factories in China and Taiwan to assemble 1.3 million TVs in 2007. It also has a contract factory in Ontario, Calif., operated by Solar Link Technologies of Taiwan, to more quickly deliver to retailers in the United States. It is now seeking the capacity to produce 1.2 million more TVs. Mr. Sollitto has been racing to arrange financing for all this growth.

?Our biggest concern right now is, let’s not bite off more than we can chew,? he said.



Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Originally Posted by shuttermaker
This is Must See TV for me every week. I love this show.
I've been watching since the start...I was concerned that the cast chemistry would suffer after they killed off Kate, but it's actually gotten better, which I wouldn't have believed. Great show.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Originally Posted by dad1153
That said NCIS is one of the few shows on network TV that I'm tempted to catch-on with DVD's because the promos make it seem like such a kooky and fun action show to watch. Even I can tell this is no JAG-off (that show was preachy as hell but it gave is the beautiful Catherine Bell ), and that computer girl with the pony tails and "goth" make-up seems like she'd be a riot as comic relief. Guess I need to be pushed around a little and I might just become an 'NCIS' convert. Any takers?
Pauley Perrette plays Abby Sciuto, the goth forensic scientist on the show is not only good with her comic relief, as you put it Dad, but she actually has a degree in forensic science. Acting came later for her. I believe that it makes her character more realistic since she understands the technobabble that comes with many parts of that nature.

The DVD "audio commentaries" by Don Bellisario hint to this story and several others.

I think that Don Bellisario has the golden touch over the last 25-30 years with the shows that he created, and this is just another in that string. He seems comfortable enough to blend some occasional in-jokes naming some of the other series he was involved with over the years.

I think the combination of casting, writing and production is why I stay tuned to this show, when similar shows (Law and Order, CSI) have turned me off.


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Nice to see you posting again MWJ!


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Grammy Winners

The show isn't over on the west coast yet, but if you'd like to see a complete list of tonight's Grammy winners you can find it here:



Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Fredfa, any word on the ratings for BSG?


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Originally Posted by URFloorMatt
The surprising thing for me about NCIS (versus Extreme Makeover) is that NCIS sits in a brutal time period and has weathered years of both American Idol and Dancing with the Stars.
What do you call Sunday night at 8PM? That's primo prime-time viewing time, and 'EM:HE' more than has held its own over the years. This past Fall against the all-mighty Sunday Night Football 'EM:HE' often beat NBC's games soundly in ratings and the demo (except for marquee match-ups like the 'Manning Bowl'). Of course it helps that (a) the NFL game doesn't start until 8:25PM after pre-game coverage and (b) 'EM:HE' works as female-skewing counterprogramming to the male-skewed NFL games. And hey, the fact that 'NCIS' got an article mentioning its popularity while 'EM:HE' continues to get close-to-zilch media coverage (even as it approaches the magic 100 episodes needed for weekday syndication stripping) while remaining a Top 20 show since 2003 speaks volumes about what the media deems "cool" and "hot." And this coming from one of the most Blue-state liberal posters on this forum (me) that's been watching 'EM:HE' religiously since November of 2004!


Hot Off Press Latest Television News and Info

Originally Posted by MWJones
I think that Don Bellisario has the golden touch over the last 25-30 years with the shows that he created, and this is just another in that string. He seems comfortable enough to blend some occasional in-jokes naming some of the other series he was involved with over the years.
You mean like the killer robot military Humvee episode from a couple of months ago that was clerly a dig at Glen Larson's Knight Rider? Bellisario worked under Larson for the 70's version of 'Battlestar Galactica' (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0069074/) and created one of the many 'Knight Rider' rip-offs from the 80's, TV's Airwolf (a cross between 'KR' and the Roy Scheider movie 'Blue Thunder'). Even from the promos of this particular episode it was obvious 'NCIS' was poking fun at the Larson-Bellisario working relationship over the years.


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The Business of Television
Q&A: The New NBCU ns
Jeff Zucker Seizes the Moment as CEO
By Michele Greppi Television Week February 12, 2007

In two decades at NBC, Jeff Zucker has risen from researcher at the Seoul Olympics to president and CEO of NBC Universal, a position that will require him to become fluent in the lingo of the worlds of film and theme parks.

It speaks volumes about the rapidity of his ascent that among his direct reports, the number of people who are younger than the 41-year-old executive can be counted on one hand, perhaps even a couple of fingers.

After his appointment last Tuesday he talked with TelevisionWeek National Editor Michele Greppi about how most steps up in his career "just happened," how he had no designs on the big job until the past year and about the number of issues facing him and NBC Universal.

Television Week: In our best Chris Matthews voice, we're saying, "Tell me something I don't know about the next year."
Jeff Zucker: I believe the momentum with NBC's prime-time lineup and with Universal's film slate will continue to improve.

Television Week: What will be NBC Universal's biggest success/improvement story in your first year as all-high mucky-muck?
Jeff Zucker: See answer to Question 1.

Television Week: What will be NBC Universal's retransmission strategy moving forward?
Jeff Zucker: I obviously don't want to talk about this too much publicly, but as you know this company has vast -- half of this company's assets are on the cable side. That's one of the more under-reported stories about this company, which is that half of this company's operating profit is derived from those cable entities. That puts us in a slightly different position than others when it comes to retrans. Retrans is a very important part of who we are and who we will be.

Television Week: Fox News announced last week it will launch its business news channel this year. What will be CNBC's greatest strength and vulnerability?
Jeff Zucker: I think the fact that we have spent the last two years getting our house in order at CNBC and the fact that CNBC's performance is demonstrably better than it has been, up more than 150 percent from its low point a few years ago, is the best response to anyone who wants to come into that world.

Television Week: Any thoughts on the CNBC "money honey" tempest around Maria Bartiromo's dealings with Citigroup and a former executive?
Jeff Zucker: I would just say I believe Maria has handled herself with incredible class, and has done everything we asked her to do, and has not crossed any lines and remains an incredibly important part not just of the CNBC family but the NBC Universal family as well.

Television Week: How much improvement can you reasonably expect from the cable entertainment channels, which, as you say, are the driver of the company right now?
Jeff Zucker: We expect to see double-digit growth out of them, but that is a phenomenal performance on top of a phenomenal performance.

Television Week: How about MSNBC? It's headed for what's described as a phenomenally profitable this year now that NBC Universal is the sole owner.
Jeff Zucker: Consolidating our ownership in it last year and then having this growth on top of that has come at a very nice time. It's really making nice progress.

Television Week: How much is Keith Olbermann, the MSNBC "Countdown" host who has been negotiating a new contract, worth?
Jeff Zucker: Keith Olbermann is an incredibly important part of MSNBC and I expect he'll be part of our future for a long time.

Television Week: That would be the longest he's ever stayed in one place professionally, wouldn't it?
Jeff Zucker: Well, look, I think when you're happy and you're doing a great job, it makes complete sense to stay where you are.

Television Week: Would you like to hazard a prediction about how the prime-time race will play out this season?
Jeff Zucker: No. The only thing I would say is that there is no question that four networks in prime time will be incredibly closely-bunched, and my guess is that there's half a ratings point separating first from fourth. It's never been that competitive from first to fourth.

Television Week: Now that you have total control over the universe, what can you promise fans of "Friday Night Lights"?
Jeff Zucker: I would say that this entire company loves "Friday Night Lights" and we're going to do everything we can to see that that program gets to the playoffs.

Television Week: And that means …?
Jeff Zucker: We love this show, we believe in this show, there's no group that wants that show to come back more than this company.

Television Week: Against the backdrop of the digital emphasis by NBC Universal, can you say what has been learned so far from "iVillage Live," which is running on the NBC Universal-owned stations.
Jeff Zucker: What it has proven is that there are new economic models that can work in daytime and we've got to continue to refine them and hone them and commit to trying new things. So far we are pleased with the initial plays of "iVillage Live."

Television Week: At what point did you know you wanted to run the whole shebang?
Jeff Zucker: Wellllllll, I think that's something that only became clear to me within the last year, that that was a real possibility, and only then did I think that would be something I would want to do.

I've never had a career path where I set out or knew what I was going to do next. The next thing just happened, and that was always the case. I just wanted to do the job well that I was in.

Only within the last year, when I was given the responsibility for the entire television group -- and that was two-thirds of the company -- did I think about ultimately moving into this position.

Television Week: How will you put your first big stamp on the Zucker era?
Jeff Zucker: I don't feel any pressure to announce any big initiative. It just doesn't work like that.

The fact is the key areas I want to focus on are content, making sure that at NBC, especially in prime time, they continue the momentum they have under way, making sure the film studio has the resources they need to have the summer they hope to have. So content will continue to be a major area of focus.

The digital side will be the other main area of focus. We've spent a year experimenting. Now we have to focus on the economics.

Obviously, cost will continue to be a key area of focus. I'm not sure that focus ever ends.

Television Week: Can you give any specifics on where NBCU 2.0 stands?
Jeff Zucker: We've made tremendous progress. We are very close to having met all the goals we set when we announced NBCU 2.0 last year. There's still a little work to be done. We're very much on target and have identified most of that and feel very positive about that. We're not going to let up on looking at our cost structure and our cost basis ever. This is an evolution and an ongoing process.

Television Week: Does it surprise you that some people in the industry still shake their heads and say they don't get your ascent?
Jeff Zucker: All I ever have been worried about is doing the best I can do, and making sure the people who work for me are supported and motivated, and the people who I work for feel I am getting the job done for them. Beyond that, everything takes care of itself. I don't have time in my life to worry about the rest.

Television Week: Analysts frequently diminish NBC Universal's share of GE's revenues, saying NBC Universal's performance and changes do not have much of an effect on the GE stock price and that sort of thing. What do you think when you hear that?
Jeff Zucker: We are proud to be part of the GE family and want to make sure we contribute our fair share. Whatever the percentage ends up being we want to make sure we're pulling our fair share. GE has been nothing but a fantastic owner of NBCU, and I expect that to be the case for many years to come.

Television Week: If you still were executive producer of "Today," would you have been lobbying for a fourth hour?
Jeff Zucker: Of course I would. Sure. Sure.

Television Week: And would you be knocking on Kelly Ripa's door?
Jeff Zucker: (Pause) As you know, I'm a big fan of Kelly and admire her personally and professionally.



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Critic’s Notebook
Ending on a High Note:
'Sopranos' And 'Idol' Are Unlikely to Disappoint
By Tom Shales Washington Post Staff Writer

For many years in a previous century, TV networks tried to hide the fact that a season was coming to an end or that a popular show was about to gasp its last or lapse into reruns. Today, many a finale is treated as grand and heavily ballyhooed. The networks will promote anything in pursuit of short-term ratings, never mind what the long-term effect might be.

? The big events to look forward to as spring coils and prepares to pounce are potentially spectacular farewells -- the most conspicuous being the definite, absolute and this-time-we're-not-kidding conclusion to "The Sopranos" on HBO, probably the most eagerly anticipated series finale since David Janssen nabbed the one-armed man and stopped being "The Fugitive."

The airdate for the last of nine new "Sopranos" episodes is June 10, and it wouldn't be surprising if HBO attracts its largest audience ever on that night.

? On May 22-23, there'll be another momentous climax, although of the once-a-year, rather than once-in-a-lifetime, variety: the annual, irresistible, must-see conclusion to Fox's "American Idol" talent search, in which a new king or queen of pop singing will be crowned, hailed, feted and hyper-hyped. This year's competition has gotten off to a roaringly good and deservedly high-rated start.

? HBO, meanwhile, has another promising attraction in the wings that marks the culmination of a 30-year effort to bring a modern classic to the screen (any screen): the film adaptation of "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," a seminal work on Native Americans. Produced by "Law & Order" maestro Dick Wolf, it's completing production in Canada and airs in March.

? To the other extreme -- the opposite of breathless anticipation -- there's much on the TV horizon that looks eminently dreadable. The productions most likely to be loathed are whatever variations on the reality game show that come next. As NBC demonstrated with its "American Idol" clone "Grease: You're the One That I Want," the genre's low standards allow one to be shamelessly and dreadfully derivative.

Who knows what "new" ideas lurk in the rattled brains of TV producers? Even though CBS's "Armed and Famous" was a flop, there are almost certain to be more attempts to team amateurs and has-beens in dubious endeavors. How about "Ocean's 13 1/2, " in which pseudo- and would-be stars join forces to rob a Las Vegas casino -- or maybe just knock over a bank?

"Big-Time Bowling"? "Celebrity Space Mission"? Maybe "Strip Search," in which viewers vote for the best amateur lap dancer. Hardly anything is beyond imagining, and if respectable networks all turn down an idea, one can always peddle it to Fox, which came that close to airing a special in which O.J. Simpson was going to speculate what it would be like to murder two people (not that he ever did, of course).

The real competition: Which network can stoop the lowest and score a fat payday in the process. But there's an idea right there -- "So You Want to Run a Network!," the show that lets Mr. and Ms. Average Viewer play programmer. That might not only be a hit but also a way to salvage NBC.



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TV Notebook
Grammy bow to Fox's 'American Idol'
Awards to Carrie Underwood affirm show's place
By Toni Fitzgerald MediaLifeMagazine.com staff writer Feb 12, 2007

As if ?American Idol? really needed more validation, last night season four champion Carrie Underwood became the talent competition’s second-ever Grammy winner. She earned two awards, best female country vocal performance and best new artist.

That followed season one winner Kelly Clarkson’s two Grammys last year and past nominations for season two and three champs Ruben Studdard and Fantasia Barrino.

Add to that the recent Academy Award nomination for season three finalist Jennifer Hudson, and the hit Fox show’s influence on pop culture seems to be growing.

The show is averaging 34.1 million viewers this season, up 5 percent from last season, and is the top-rated show among adults 18-49.

And that influence is creeping well beyond broadcast TV to other areas. In addition to the Grammy and Academy Awards, ?Idol? has produced best-selling records from all of its winners and several runners-up. Season five finalist Chris Daughtry’s album is currently in Billboard’s top five.

Judge Paula Abdul has an upcoming reality show on Bravo. Fellow judge Simon Cowell has produced several other reality shows for American TV, including last summer’s hit ?America’s Got Talent? on NBC.

In fact, the show has become so big that last year, when ?Idol? aired opposite the Grammys, the latter fell to its lowest ratings ever, and this year was moved to Sunday to avoid facing ?Idol.?

Underwood credited ?Idol? for her victories in her acceptance speeches last night, unlike Clarkson, who was criticized for not even acknowledging the show’s part in her success.

Making her victory more impressive, Underwood won best vocal performance over such country luminaries LeAnn Rimes, Martina McBride and Gretchen Wilson.

Major winners at Sunday's 49th Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles:

Album of the Year

"Taking the Long Way," Dixie Chicks

Record of the Year

"Not Ready to Make Nice," Dixie Chicks

Song of the Year

"Not Ready to Make Nice," Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Emily Robison and Dan Wilson (Dixie Chicks)

New Artist

Carrie Underwood



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Sunday’s metered market over-night prime-time ratings ? and Media Week Analyst Marc Berman’s view of what they mean -- have been posted just near the top of Ratings News the first post in this thread.


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Critic’s Notebook
Why dazzling dramas ended up in Dumpster
By Jonathan Storm Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist

PASADENA, Calif. - What happened?

Launched in an orgy of optimism, the fall's new TV dramas were so handsome and full of promise. Yet, long before winter's frost arrived, most had withered and died, just like all the clunky junk that came and went, year in, year out, in the bad old days.

It was three and out for CBS's caper chronicle, Smith. "The show looked great," said network entertainment president Nina Tassler, "but it needed to spend more time on both main characters."

NBC's scrumptiously convoluted Kidnapped got a quick trip to Saturday's dank TV closet. Thence to the Internet, where nothing could ransom it. "I personally have never been involved with such a gap between the quality and the [ratings] performance" of a show, said NBC entertainment president Kevin O'Reilly.

The Nine lasted only seven episodes. Big Day went for eight. "Big disappointment," said ABC entertainment boss Stephen McPherson. "Both shows were incredibly well-produced," he said. "We loved both shows creatively."

Network bosses preferred to expound on the promise of next season. But they did offer theories as to why 12 of their 17 beloved drama hopefuls wound up drowned in the tank or gasping for air: The shows were too dark. They were too leisurely. They had unclear themes.

Sure, there were too many continuing stories overall, the execs said, but that was the other guy's fault. Nobody acknowledged that his or her network alone suffered serial surfeit.

Instead of dwelling on past failure, however, the network bosses are already deep into pilot season, snapping up sparkling new concepts and trying on strategies to separate themselves from the pack.

That means a wacky wonderland for CBS, more stand-alone series (one hour, case closed) for NBC, more fantasy at ABC, and - saints be praised! - fewer horrific reality shows on Fox this spring.

Some would consider five-for-17 a victory in a TV world where about one in four new series makes it to a second season, but hopes were higher than usual for last fall's crop of sparkling dramas. Though critics saw no breakout hits like Desperate Housewives, many were hard-pressed to pick more than three or four lemons.

The public disagreed.

Gone: All three new Fox dramas, Vanished, Standoff and Justice; Smith (CBS), Runaway (CW), Kidnapped (NBC).

Canceled, but likely to air all the remaining installments of their 13-episode order later this season: ABC's Six Degrees and The Nine. Day Break's final five should show up on the Internet, McPherson said. He cautioned that while Six Degrees had time to wrap up loose ends, The Nine would finish without closure.

ABC picked up Men in Trees for 22 episodes, but it's struggling, tied for 61st with NBC's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip among 137 major-network series, and likely to die in May.

O'Reilly said NBC could very well renew critical darlings Studio 60 and Friday Night Lights (105th) for next year. Don't bet on it.

Sure to be back: CBS's Shark (23d) and Jericho (37th), NBC's Heroes (25th), and ABC's Ugly Betty (26th) and Brothers & Sisters (28th).

ABC's McPherson said he saw "a kind of escapism going on out there" in at least three of those five, Heroes, Betty and Brothers & Sisters.

Tassler said all five shows had a "strong identity... a sense of themselves and a clear message, episode to episode." Series like Smith and The Nine, she said, "got mired in the details. Maybe they were a little too clever."

Heavy on closed-end crime and action shows (Shark, starring James Woods as an egotistical prosecutor lawyer, brings the total to 12), CBS "will be walking on the wild side" next season, Tassler said. "We want to find shows that are going to be talked about."

To that end, the network is looking at pilots of a musical series starring Hugh Jackman, a show about exorcists and demons from Joan of Arcadia's Barbara Hall, and another about suburban wife-swappers in the '70s.

NBC will zig where CBS zags.

"There's going to be a few more closed-ended dramas" next fall, McPherson said. "We do have some serials," but nothing as "demanding" as Heroes, which, with its youthful audience and difficult time period, is considered along with Ugly Betty as one of the season's top two new hits.

"Serialization is still one of the biggest hooks that we have into an audience," O'Reilly said. "I think it's potential rocket fuel when you hit. So we're not running away from that, but we are balancing it out a little bit more."

ABC's McPherson talked about developing shows with compelling characters (now there's a novel strategy), with "a little bit of adjustment" toward escapist fare and episodes that wrapped up each week.

And the best news of all may come from Peter Liguori, entertainment president of Fox, who declared in a topsy-turvy pronouncement typical of his network: "Spring is the new fall."

Instead of "dabbling in reality," Fox plans to introduce three new scripted series "to see if any [will] stick, because then they'll be contenders for the fall."

With American Idol and 24 luring 89 zillion viewers in the spring, and baseball playoffs and the World Series messing up the Fox fall, Liguori hopes to avoid perennial scheduling problems that have seen only one new show in recent years, Prison Break, get any traction on the network from an August or September launch.

It's possible that all three spring shows will be smash hits or that they'll all go down the drain. The four big network kahunas may make $5 million among them, and they may have reams of research behind the scenes and immensely creative people in front of them.

But the viewing public is a fickle mistress, and, at the end of the day (a phrase you must employ at least three times daily to become even a junior TV executive), all the strategy in the world doesn't guarantee success.

"You don't really know where a hit is going to come from," Tassler said.



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The Business of TV
Ailes: Fox Biz Network Must Limit Infomercials
Carriers Forcing Issue, Exec Says
By Michele Greppi Television Week February 12, 2007

Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes says he's paying for cable operators' mistakes with CNBC.

Burned by the number of infomercial hours programmed by CNBC, the companies that have agreed to carry the Fox Business Channel starting in fourth quarter of this year have imposed limits on the number of non-business-news hours on the network, Mr. Ailes told TelevisionWeek in an interview.

"We're not allowed to do what CNBC does. They go 24/7 on weekends with infomercials. They can go all overnight on infomercials," Mr. Ailes said. "[The cable operators] figured out they had given away the store with CNBC and they limited us more.

"We can have X number of hours, six or eight or something, for a couple of years. So we clearly are going to have to come up with a schedule that allows us not to live on the addiction to infomercials and nose tweezers and `Body by Jake,' or Cheese Whiz slicers and that s--," Mr. Ailes said last week. "We're going to have to invent something."

In the beginning, he said, he expects to do a 12-hour live day, then probably taped programming in the evening and more taped programming on the weekends.

Mr. Ailes spoke last week after the long-awaited announcement that News Corp. had cable operators' commitments representing 30 million subscribers. That had been the magic target number News Corp. set for greenlighting the channel News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch has long desired.

In spite of the long lead, Mr. Ailes and Neil Cavuto, Fox News senior VP and managing editor of business news, have few specifics to share.

Mr. Ailes said his team is working on "a hard headcount" that probably will include more than 300 hires involved in the gathering and producing of business news. Synergy will help hold down some other costs, since Fox Business Channel will be housed in the headquarters building of News Corp. and Fox News.

The team also includes Fox News Executive VP Kevin Magee, who will be responsible for day-to-day operations of the new channel, while Mr. Cavuto will oversee content and business news coverage; and former CNBC personality Alexis Glick, who will serve as a director of business news, reporting to Mr. Cavuto, while also serving in an on-air capacity.

The Ailes-Cavuto-Glick triumvirate has a good knowledge of CNBC practice and personalities, which Fox Business Channel clearly considers its prime competition for viewers who are not restricted to Wall Street offices.

Mr. Ailes, who considers public relations an art of war, can and did make sharp, pithy observations about the CNBC on-air veterans. For example, he offered: "Joe Kernen is a real stud for them." Then he said, "Hey, let me just say they're all good friends. I know all of them. Most of them were there when I was there when I was a boy.

"I think they've got a niche carved out," Mr. Ailes said.

CNBC made more than $275 million in pre-tax profit in 2006, a record for the business news channel and is in more than 80 million homes.

Bloomberg Television's data-heavy, multiscreen, 24-hour format is available in more than 86 million homes. Both competitors have international operations.

However, Mr. Cavuto does not want to be hemmed in.

"There's a tendency, not across the board, but among some, to look at business news as the stuff of old white men. That has been the perceived audience," he said, adding that the success that business news on Fox News Channel has had "reaching out to minorities, getting more women, getting younger people watching, getting big numbers, period, is in our approach."

He aims to challenge people to look outside the box, to see the greater world of business beyond just tick-for-tick movement in the market, Mr. Cavuto said.

"I would imagine there is room there," BIA Financial Network VP Mark Fratrick said. "They have financial backing, commitment, resources they can use. I would be relatively optimistic of their success."

"Bring it on," a spokesperson for CNBC said. "We welcome the competition if it ever shows up."

A Fox spokesperson replied, "We welcome their arrogance."



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Originally Posted by fredfa
Critic’s Notebook
Why dazzling dramas ended up in Dumpster
By Jonathan Storm Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist

ABC picked up Men in Trees for 22 episodes, but it's struggling, tied for 61st with NBC's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip among 137 major-network series, and likely to die in May.

O'Reilly said NBC could very well renew critical darlings Studio 60 and Friday Night Lights (105th) for next year. Don't bet on it.
Was that "likely to die in May" reference meant for 'Men In Trees' or 'Studio 60'? Regardless, I really hope that the fact that 'Studio 60' ranks 44 slots ahead of 'FNL' might give it a small edge come renewal time with Reilly. Then again, that fracking 'Studio 60' budget!


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Critic’s Notebook
Bauer doing all the heavy lifting on '24'
By Charlie McCollum San Jose Mercury News Mon, Feb. 12, 2007

Some thoughts, notes and bits of news from the mythical, mystical world of television:

? While it remains one of TV's most compelling shows, ``24'' -- which airs back-to-back episodes tonight (starting at 8, Chs. 2, 35) -- is faltering this season on one key level: Jack Bauer -- and Kiefer Sutherland, the actor who plays him -- is being asked to carry almost the entire dramatic load, with precious little help from the huge array of surrounding characters.

None of the other characters has the impact of those of past years: There's no David and Sherry Palmer (Dennis Haysbert, Penny Johnson), Teri Bauer (Leslie Hope), Audrey Raines (Kim Raver), Dina Araz (Shohreh Aghdashloo) or Charles and Martha Logan (Gregory Itzin, Jean Smart) to provide some balance to the storytelling. Even Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub, who seems to have undergone an extreme fashion makeover between seasons) has been marginalized.

Two characters have come close, but Graem Bauer, a.k.a. Bluetooth Guy (Paul McCrane), Jack's duplicitous brother, got bumped off last week, and White House aide Tom Lennox still hasn't risen to the level of engaging despite a delightfully twitchy performance by Peter MacNicol from ``Numbers.''

And after last week's episode, I'm not really confident that the very good James Cromwell is going to make that much of an impact as Philip Bauer, Jack's dear ol' daddy. (It might have been different if Donald Sutherland, Kiefer's father, had agreed to play the role. He was asked.)

I'm still there every Monday night for ``24.'' But Jack really needs some help -- and quickly -- to get through this season.

? Since I've whacked ``Gilmore Girls'' (8 ET/PT Tuesday, the CW) pretty good so far this season, it's only right that I mention the past two episodes, which have had at least a measure of the show's old snap and zip. Last week's hour was the best the series has mustered in some time, with a very moving performance by Kelly Bishop as Emily Gilmore. It still feels like it's time to call it a day in Stars Hollow, but at least there are a few signs of life left in the Gilmores.

? Two PBS documentaries are worth your time this week: ``New Orleans'' (9 ET/PT tonight), a fresh take on the city from filmmaker Stephen Ives (``Seabiscuit''), and the first part of ``News War'' (10 ET/PT Tuesday), kicking off a ``Frontline'' miniseries on the current state of the press in this country.

The Ives film doesn't have the power of Spike Lee's ``When the Levees Broke,'' but it's a marvelous celebration of the city's cultural greatness. The four-part ``News War'' -- produced by Lowell Bergman, a Pulitzer Prize winner with ``60 Minutes'' -- opens with a splendid segment on how the Bush administration ``spun'' the media during the days leading up to the Iraq war.

? ``Jericho'' (8 ET/PT Wednesday, CBS) has been taking a breather since November, and Wednesday's episode may look like a new one in the CBS promos (and even may be listed as a fresh installment in TV schedules). It's not. The hour is a show of clips from previous episodes, so unless you feel the need to catch up with where things stand in that Kansas town, you can take a pass until the show returns with actual new stuff next week.

? ABC can spin the ratings result any which way but loose, but here's the bottom line: ``Lost'' suffered another viewership slide in its heavily promoted return last week. Moving to the 10 p.m. Wednesday slot, it drew 14.7 million viewers -- a notable drop from its last original episode in November -- and was beaten by ``CSI: NY'' by more than a million people. Sure, the show won among younger viewers, but there has to be some concern among the ABC suits.



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Critic’s Notebook
Heroes the Best Serial on TV?
Get Lost.
By James Poniewozik Time Magazine television critic in Time’s ?Tuned In? blog

It's hard to stop a runaway meme, and the one that's taken off in TV this year is that Heroes in the new Lost. Or, rather, the new, improved Lost.

The argument goes like this: Lost used to be a great, entertaining show, but it got so up its own, um, hatch with plot convolutions that it became impossible and frustrating to follow. Enter Heroes, another great-looking serial which improved on the formula by streamlining its mystery, disciplining its story, and providing closure, closure, closure. It tells you "Save the Cheerleader, Save the World," and, by God, somebody will save the cheerleader by mid-season!

I like Heroes a lot. I'll be watching tonight. (First Nathan gets with Niki, and now he's Claire's father? Dude's presidential material!) But to me this argument takes a pretty dim view of not just Lost but of what TV can be as an entertainment form. If all you care about is suspense, easy-to-follow stories and plot gratification, Heroes is your show.

But as a piece of writing, a work of--is it embarrassing to say this?--art? It's not even close. Heroes is not written nearly at the level Lost is, either in its dialogue--how often does a character on Heroes deliver a line you couldn't have pretty much predicted a beat in advance?--or its characters. Lost has an entire roster of multifaceted, engaging characters, alive and dead: Locke, Eko, Sawyer, Ben and the list goes on. Heroes has maybe two characters that aren't flat stock types: Hiro (who's funny and endearing, but pales before Hurley) and maybe Horn-Rimmed Glasses (who is interestingly ambiguous, but also a bit of an X-Files retread).

Obviously not every show on TV needs to be, or can be, as creative as Lost, and there's room for more than one good serial on network TV. But it's time to stop the madness. If anybody wants to take up the samurai sword for Heroes, however, I bare my neck for you here.



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Critic’s Notebook
The Mr. Television Column
Empty Calorie Shows
by Marc Berman Media Week February 12, 2007

If you work in this business and your office is in Manhattan, chances are you have been to Michael's, a popular midtown restaurant. Anyone who is anyone in media goes there; it's a veritable who's who of the power-media set. Yet the food is not very good, the prices are exorbitant, and if you order anything of a non-salad nature (which I did when I met Susan Lyne at the hot spot a few years ago) you might need a microscope to find the meat.

Two weeks ago I lunched there with an old colleague from my days at Viacom, Ken Werner, who is now president of Warner Bros. Domestic Distribution. And, as usual, the place was jam-packed with media executives, including Hallmark CEO Henry Schleiff.

While I walked into the restaurant with limited expectations about the food, Werner — salesman extraordinaire that he is — sold me on the upcoming Warner Bros. newsmagazine TMZ, which is based on the popular Hollywood gossip Web site of the same name (and promises to be independent from the syndicator's veteran Extra). I like the idea of a grittier, more scandalous look at celebrity life on a daily basis, and I am hoping that Warner Bros. can break down the barriers and find some respectable time periods. I'm rooting for this show, folks.

Oddly, eating at Michael's — a place that struck me as completely overrated — got me thinking about some TV shows (many not as good as everyone claims) that generate interest at the watercooler simply because it's "cool" to be watching.

It's safe to say that many people watch these shows to fit in, more than for the pure entertainment value. I mean, let's be honest here: Is Grey's Anatomy on ABC really that good? Are HBO's Entourage or Curb Your Enthusiasm really that addictive? And do you really think one-joke-wonder Ugly Betty on ABC has that long a shelf life? Given that Betty works in the fashion industry, you would think by now that her fashion sense might have improved!

God forbid I criticize any of these shows—the hard-core fans are likely to have my head on a platter. But if I hear one more thing about Drs. "McDreamy" or "McSteamy," I might just toss my McCookies.

One show with a Michael's mentality that posters at PIfeedback.com, our chat room, can't stop talking about is NBC's 30 Rock. "Alec Baldwin, Alec Baldwin...Alec Baldwin!" The fans are relentless. "He's funny. He's amazing. He deserves an Emmy award!" Yet, a good percentage of the Scrubs audience flees in droves the minute 30 Rock begins. (Scrubs is another show that has limited appeal, over which a former NBC executive once threatened me because I would not label it as a "winner" in my Programming Insider newsletter. "Watch your step," he growled at me.)

While you can certainly blame the limited ratings on the competing Grey's Anatomy and CSI, erosion for 30 Rock out of Scrubs of 1.19 million viewers (6.90 to 5.71 million) and 17 percent among adults 18-49 (3.5 rating/8 share to 2.9/7) according to Nielsen Media Research data for the recent Feb. 1 telecast, tells me viewers may not love 30 Rock as much as they say they do. If they did, why would all these people be grabbing the remote?

One can't deny these die-hard fans — who call themselves "Rock-ites" — will miss the show when it's yanked for Andy Richter sitcom Andy Barker, P.I. for six weeks starting March 5. But the rest of America won't give a damn.

Like Fox's Emmy-winning Arrested Development, which everyone just loved (yet few people managed to watch on a regular basis), 30 Rock is too over the top and full of empty calories to ever attract a mass audience. Sitting through an episode of 30 Rock is like eating at Michael's: You do it in order to fit in, but the experience leaves you craving more. When the episode is over, you probably still hunger for a sitcom like Everybody Loves Raymond or Seinfeld because it is simply more satisfying and familiar. Sometimes a good ol' hamburger with all the fixins' is better than some miniscule piece of beef.

If you ever do ever happen to get to Michael's, though, here's some advice: Order a Cobb salad. At $35 a pop, that's one of the least expensive entrees on the menu. And make sure you're on an expense account — everyone else there is.



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A Reminder

Page views continue to increase dramatically in this thread. If you are new here, welcome. If you are a veteran, consider this a reminder of some of the resources available to you.

So, if you are one of the tens of thousands who are new to AVS (or more specifically to the Hot Off The Press thread), you should be aware that there are a lot of valuable information which is constantly updated for you near the top of the thread.

The daily and weekly Nielsen ratings are always available in the first post. The daily numbers are usually available by 10:30 or so AM ET (metered market overnights) and by 12:15 PM or so ET (fast nationals). The weekly ratings are updated by mid-late afternoon ET on Tuesdays (unless Monday is a holiday and they are delayed a day).

The list of cancelled and renewed shows, along with those who have received full-season pickups for this year are in post #2. Also in post #2 is an up-to-date prime-time network schedule, complete with HD listings


The shows which have yet to premiere this year are in post #3.


A number of additional resources can be found in post #4. Here are just some of the items you’ll find there:

Sports HD Schedules
Where to find the HD schedule for your favorite team -- in any sport

AC Nielsen 210 Market DMA Rankings for the 2006-2007 TV Season
Find out where your (and every U.S. TV market) ranks

Digital TV Info for all 210 Nielsen DMAs
The people at HDTV Magazine have supplied a link which tells who in each market is broadcasting digitally, from where and with how much power

Cable/Satellite Penetration By Nielsen DMA Market as of November, 2006
How many people have cable or satellite in each market?

FCC's Digital TV Info Resources

Are you eligible for HD Distant Network Station reception? Here is the FCC fact sheet which may answer some of your questions about SHVERA and how it effects what we are -- or are not -- allowed to purchase.

All of this and much more is available in post #4 of this thread. You can go there directly by clicking here:



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Originally Posted by dad1153
Was that "likely to die in May" reference meant for 'Men In Trees' or 'Studio 60'? Regardless, I really hope that the fact that 'Studio 60' ranks 44 slots ahead of 'FNL' might give it a small edge come renewal time with Reilly. Then again, that fracking 'Studio 60' budget!
I think Marc has made it clear in recent weeks he thinks the terrible retention numbers for "Men In Trees" out of "Grey's" means it faces a bleak future.

"Studio 60", in his opinion, has very little chances of renewal.


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The 2006-2007 Season

By Rich Heldenfels in his Akron Beacon Journal TV blog

Facing the buzzsaws of ''CSI'' and ''Grey's Anatomy,'' NBC has moved new drama ''Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip'' from its planned Thursday time slot to Mondays at 10 p.m.

That's part of a bunch of changes NBC has made since seeing its competitors' fall lineups, including major shuffles of the ''Law & Order'' shows.

''Medium'' has been bumped to midseason, after football is done. The move of the original ''Law & Order,'' which has been mainly at 10 p.m. Wednesdays for most of the past 14 years, will come with some recasting.

With changes that big, NBC Entertainment Presidnent Kevin Reilly called it ''NBC schedule, Part 2.'' Considering that the first version was announced less than two weeks ago, this network is running very scared.



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The 2006-2007 Season
NBC Rejiggers Fall Schedule

'Studio 60' Retreats From Competitive Thursday Time Slot
By Christopher Lisotta TVWeek.com May 25, 2006

Less than two weeks after announcing its fall 2006 prime-time schedule to advertisers at its upfront presentation in New York, NBC is adjusting its lineup with major revisions on five nights and a retreat from its strategy of launching new shows in the 9 p.m. (ET) hour.

One of the most high-profile moves is a shift for the Warner Bros. Television Studios industry drama "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," which originally was scheduled for Thursdays at 9 p.m. The network is moving the show to Mondays at 10 p.m., replacing psychic drama "Medium," which is being held for Sundays at 10 p.m. after NFL Football completes its run in January.

That moves "Studio 60" out of what was becoming a very competitive Thursday night. ABC announced at its upfront presentation last week it is moving one of its strongest performers, the Sunday medical drama "Grey's Anatomy," to Thursdays at 9 p.m., where CBS's forensic drama "CSI" already dominates the time period. Now NBC is scheduling that time slot with its game show "Deal or No Deal," which was a surprise midseason hit for the network.

"We are countering the 'Grey's'/'CSI' combo," said Kevin Reilly, president of NBC Entertainment, during a conference call with reporters Thursday. "It is a genuine alternative to the very tough drama competition."

Because of the introduction of two new dramas on Mondays, NBC moved new thriller drama "Kidnapped" off Tuesdays to create a two-hour "Law & Order" franchise block. That allows NBC to focus only on one new Tuesday drama, the 8 p.m. football series "Friday Night Lights." "Kidnapped" is moving to Wednesday at 10 p.m., pushing the night's veteran performer "Law & Order" to Fridays.

"Law & Order" isn't the only Friday change. The procedural "Crossing Jordan," which was being held for midseason, will start off the night at 8 p.m.

On Wednesdays, NBC is moving reality series "The Biggest Loser" out of the 8 p.m. hour, where there is multiple reality competition on other networks, into the 9 p.m. hour, which has been dominated by ABC's drama "Lost." NBC's two new comedies will move to the 8 p.m. block.

NBC has traditionally has been the first network to announce its schedule during the upfront presentation week, which served the network well when it was No. 1 in adults 18 to 49 but has left it at a competitive disadvantage now that it is ranked No. 4 in the advertiser-friendly demo.

"Adjustments are always made," Mr. Reilly said, noting that NBC is "discussing" changing up its announcement date for next year's upfronts. "We are normally in the dark by going first."



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The 2006-2007 Season
NBC's fall, Part II

By Hal Boedeker Orlando Sentinel Television Critic in the Sentinel’s TV blog May 25, 2006

After unveiling one fall schedule last week, NBC announced Thursday that it was overhauling that lineup by changing five nights and sending nine series to new slots. The revised plan removes "Medium," with Emmy-winner Patricia Arquette (left), from the fall lineup and brings back "Crossing Jordan," which was supposed to return at midseason.

"This is very unusual," Kevin Reilly, president of NBC Entertainment, said of the revisions. He attributed the revamp to NBC's going first last week in revealing its plan to advertisers in New York and to NBC's being fourth in the 18-to-49 age group so dear to advertisers.

What did the new plan say about his network?

"I'd hope people would say, 'They're smart,'" Reilly said. "We're saying, 'We believe in our new shows.'''

The schedule changes every weeknight. In the biggest shift, NBC removed a new Aaron Sorkin drama, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" with Matthew Perry, from the highly competitive 9 p.m. slot where CBS' "CSI" and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" will compete. NBC has decided to shift hot game show "Deal or No Deal" to that slot.



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The 2006-2007 Season
NBC Shuffles Fall Lineup

By John Consoli and Marc Berman Mediaweek.com MAY 25, 2006 -

NBC, as expected, announced that it is moving to another night its new Thursday night 9 p.m. drama for the 2006-07 season, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, to Monday night at 10, and will replace it in that Thursday time period with hit game show Deal or No Deal.

But at the same time, in one of the most aggressive pre-season scheduling changes announced at any one time, NBC made programming shifts in its fall schedule on every other night of the week, except Saturday, which is a repeat night.

NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly said all strategy used in putting together the NBC prime-time schedule for next season which was announced at the network's upfront presentation on May 15, has now been replaced by the thinking, "Let's just launch our new shows in the most opportunistic time periods."

Studio 60 was scheduled to air Thursday nights at 9 p.m next season, but following NBC's announcement of its schedule, ABC said that it was moving its drama hit Grey's Anatomy from Sunday night at 9 to Thursday night at 9. Studio 60 also would have had to face the CBS hit drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. So NBC moved it to Monday night at 10, replacing its veteran drama Medium, which will now be held until mid-season, when it will air on Sunday night at 10, when Sunday Night Football finishes its season on NBC.

Reilly said once he had a chance to look at all his competitors' schedules, it became evident that other moves needed to be made.
Rethinking Tuesday, Reilly believed premiering two new shows, Friday Night Lights and Kidnapped back-to-back was risky, so he decided to leave Friday Night Lights at 8 and will move in veteran drama Law & Order: Criminal Intent from Friday at 10 to Kidnapped's slot on Tuesday at 9, leading into Law & Order: SVU. Kidnapped will move to Wednesday night at 10, and the occupant of that time period, Law & Order, will move to the Criminal Intent slot on Fridays at 10.

Other changes include flipping new sitcoms 20 Good Years and 30 Rock from 9 into the 8 p.m. time period, and moving that time period occupant, The Biggest Loser to 9 p.m. Veteran drama Crossing Jordan, previously not scheduled to come on the air until mid-season, will now air at 8 p.m.Friday in the time period previously filled by Deal or No Deal.

Reilly said moving Studio 60 to 10 p.m. Monday will allow the network to promote it better on Sunday Night Football telecasts, and that he expects the freshman show to steal some female audience from CBS' CSI: Miami. He said moving Criminal Intent so it leads into SVU will give the two shows compatible audiences and good viewer flow.



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Commentary: The fight over a la carte
Make cable go a la carte

The fix for soaring cable-TV bills is competition and channel choice, say the Arizona senator and the FCC chairman
By John McCain and Kevin Martin in the Los Angeles Times May 25, 2006

American consumers have little choice when it comes to cable television. If you want ESPN, you must pay for 60-plus channels that you may never watch. If your child loves Nickelodeon, your family must pay for the same 60-plus channels, some of which may not be suitable for young children. Now, imagine deciding for yourself which TV channels you want to purchase. You could select the channels you want to pay for, and opt out of those you don't. In fact, right now millions of TV viewers outside the U.S. have these choices. They buy their television channels individually or in smaller bundles — and get better deals as a result.

Why can't Americans do this now? Because there is too little competition, too much regulation and not enough consumer choice in the cable TV business. As a result, in just the last two years alone cable prices have increased at twice the rate of inflation — and more than 90% since 1995. Cable companies explain away their skyrocketing prices by saying they are giving you more and more channels. At no time, however, have the cable companies actually asked if you want those additional channels. You have to pay for them whether you want them or not.

The solution to high cable bills isn't price controls or additional government regulation. It is more competition and more choice. For that reason, Congress should pass the proposed Consumers Having Options in Cable Entertainment Act — the CHOICE Act — which is being introduced today. It would allow cable companies to compete nationally for your business (rather than only at the local level) in exchange for agreeing to offer channels a la carte, either individually or in smaller bundles.

The Government Accountability Office has found that cable rates are 15% lower when a community has at least two companies competing for consumers. The Federal Communications Commission found that consumers could lower their monthly cable bill by as much as 13% if they had a la carte programming options.

And parents would never be forced to purchase a slew of channels, some not suitable for young children, simply to receive those channels that their family enjoys watching together.

Real-world examples illustrate the benefits of greater choice and more competition coming through our TV sets. In Hong Kong, viewers can select and pay for only the channels they want. A family that wants to watch sports, movies, news and children's programming can receive 15 free channels plus a selection of 11 additional digital channels (including ESPN, HBO, CNN Headline News, National Geographic Channel, Animal Planet and Discovery Channel) for only $27.50 a month. To get a package that includes those channels in Washington, the cost is $82 per month — almost $1,000 a year. That's quite a difference.

Similarly, in Canada, digital subscribers can buy channels individually or enjoy significant savings on a "5 pack," a "10 pack" or a "15 pack" of their own choosing.

Interestingly, the same companies that oppose selling channels individually or in smaller packages in the U.S. offer their programming a la carte in other countries. Their threats of financial ruin and a loss of diverse programming have proved hollow. American consumers want these companies to offer such choices. According to a recent AP-Ipsos poll, 78% of respondents said they would prefer to choose and pay for their own tailored selection of channels.

Today, cable choice and competition have been successful around the world. Consumers in Hong Kong, Britain, India and Canada are reaping the rewards of greater choice from channels being offered on an a la carte basis. So why not increase competition in the U.S. and at the same time make sure that companies offer us true choice in cable programming?

? SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.) is introducing the CHOICE Act. KEVIN MARTIN is the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.



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The 2006-2007 Season
With upfronts over, NBC reshuffles fall schedule

By Andrew Wallenstein The Hollywood Reporter May 26, 2006

NBC revealed a reshuffled fall schedule Thursday, including the anticipated move of new drama "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" to Monday at 10 p.m.

"Strip" is one of a flurry of changes orchestrated by the peacock, which is also finding new nights for "Law & Order," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and "Deal or No Deal."

Kevin Reilly, president of entertainment at NBC, acknowledged in a conference call Thursday that it was unusual for a network to make multiple changes so soon after an upfront, but stressed how important it was to "platform our new crop of series, which we think are very strong."

"Strip," which was slated for the Thursday 9 p.m. time slot when NBC first unveiled its schedule at its upfront presentation last week, was expected to be shifted once ABC announced a day later that hit series "Grey's Anatomy" would also get a Thursday 9 p.m. assignment.

"Strip," a drama from "The West Wing" executive producer Aaron Sorkin, will replace returning drama "Medium," which has been bumped to the midseason. Replacing "Strip" at 9 p.m. is "Deal."

"Deal" is still being used twice on the schedule, remaining Monday at 8 p.m. Its original Friday 8 p.m. time slot has been assigned to "Crossing Jordan," which was initially designated for midseason.

NBC is moving two of its three "Law" series, shifting the flagship series to Friday at 10 p.m. from its Wednesday 10 p.m. perch. New drama "Kidnapped" takes over Wednesday at 10 p.m., formerly on Tuesday at 9 p.m.

"Law & Order: Criminal Intent," which was to premiere Fridays at 10 p.m., shifts to Tuesday at 9 p.m.

Also on Wednesday, NBC is flipping the comedy block of "20 Good Years" and "30 Rock" with "The Biggest Loser," which moves from 8 to 9 p.m.

NBC, which has the disadvantage of announcing its schedule before the other broadcasters, had indicated it would likely make changes after the upfront presentations.



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The 2006-2007 Season
NBC’s Schedule Revamp

The Newark Star-Ledger’s Alan Sepinwall TV blog May 25, 2006

I believe the Kevin Reilly quote about how the conversation with (Law & Order Creator) Dick (Wolf) went was, "Let's just say I didn't need my coffee yesterday morning."

Look, I understand certain parts of this. They needed to move "Studio 60" the hell away from "CSI" and "Grey's," no question, and I suppose it'll do as well against "CSI: Miami" and "What About Brian" as it was going to do against "CSI" and whatever new drama NBC was hoping ABC would schedule Thursdays at 9.

But using that as an excuse to rip up the entire schedule is insane. Using "Heroes" as the "Studio 60" lead-in is insane. (As one reporter suggested on the conference call, NBC should have moved one of their new dramas to midseason and used "Medium" or "Crossing Jordan" to give "Studio 60" an established lead-in.) Moving "Deal or No Deal" into that Thursday death slot is insane. Either it tanks and then you've just accelerated the show's inevitable death throes, or it does well and the thing it's leading into is 14-year-old "ER."

The conference call was one of the most disastrous things I've ever listened to. I like Kevin, I think he's developed some good shows (he championed "The Office" when nobody would), but whether these decisions are of his own making or someone higher up the ladder is pulling the strings, I can't imagine him surviving this season….

…As counter-programming, "Deal or No Deal" isn't a bad choice. But it's also their only really big hit of the season (Earl and Office were successful on a smaller scale), and given the format, it's going to burn itself out fast. Putting it on Thursdays is going to burn it out even faster, and right now the most useful thing it can do for NBC is to provide a strong lead-in to a new show.

Hell, flop the Monday "Deal" with Heroes and you're at least giving Studio 60 something to work with. I haven't seen Heroes yet (I have the CW, CBS and Fox pilots in hand, but have only watched a couple so far), and for all I know the execution could be awesome in spite of Tim Kring's resume, but new show leading into new show is almost always a recipe for disaster. Reilly's rationale for the L&O double-feature on Tuesdays is because he didn't want to do back-to-back new dramas on both Monday and Tuesday.



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The 2006-2007 Season
NBC shifts course on new fall schedule

By Charlie McCollum San Jose Mercury News Thu, May. 25, 2006

In an unexpected and unusual move, NBC today unveiled a drastic overhaul of the new fall schedule it announced just last week.

The 2.0 version of the lineup includes shifts for several of the network's high-profile series -- both new and returning -- and changes on every night of the week except Saturday and Sunday.

``Now that we've assessed the competitive landscape, we've scheduled our new shows in time periods where we believe they'll succeed,'' said NBC President Kevin Reilly in a hastily scheduled conference call with reporters.

One move that had been anticipated was Aaron Sorkin's new ``Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip,'' a show the network believes is its best hope for a fall hit, going from 9 p.m. Thursdays to 10 p.m. Mondays. That gets the series out of the crossfire created when ABC shifted its highly rated ``Grey's Anatomy'' to the time period, opposite CBS juggernaut ``CSI.''

But NBC also moved ``Law & Order'' out of its long-time 10 p.m. Wednesday slot to 10 p.m. Fridays, the Friday edition of ``Deal Or No Deal'' to 9 p.m. Thursdays and ``Law & Order: Criminal Intent'' to 9 p.m. Tuesdays where it will lead into ``Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'' at 10.

In addition, it brought ``Crossing Jordan'' (which had been scheduled to return at mid-season) off the bench and into the 8 p.m. Fridays slot while ``Medium'' was pulled from the lineup until January when it will air Sundays at 10.

While Reilly noted that network schedules are ``never written in stone,'' it is very unusual for such wholesale changes to be made right after a new lineup is presented to advertisers in May. Traditionally, tweaks are made to network schedules over the summer and any significant makeovers wait until after the season begins.



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TV Notebook
She may have lost, but Kat's career still full of life

By Fred Shuster Los Angeles Daily News Music Writer

America has spoken: Taylor Hicks is the new "American Idol," but runner-up Katharine McPhee won't be working the drive-thru anytime soon.

The fifth season of "American Idol," the world's most closely watched karaoke-like contest, came to a close when the gray-haired Southern soul man squeaked past Sherman Oaks' McPhee to snare the crown Wednesday in front of more than 30 million TV viewers.

"I was just telling myself, `Don't fall to the floor, don't let your knees buckle.' I'm living the American dream," an elated Hicks, 29, told reporters backstage.

About 63 million votes were cast, host Ryan Seacrest said, but the breakdown was not announced.

And Kat had no regrets.

"I don't need any sad faces or anyone feeling bad for me," she said. "I got a record deal, I got a new car, I have all these great new shoes and I have all these fans.

"I want to have anything any normal person can have - family, kids - but I want to have this incredible career and do movies and sing. We'll see how it will play out."

"American Idol" is practically a sociological phenomenon, attracting people of all ages and backgrounds fascinated by an amateur singing contest that often resembles a high school talent pageant.

So many North Americans were wrapped up in "Idol" that one witness said George W. could have invaded Canada on Wednesday night and not even the Canadians would've noticed.

On Kat, Hicks was gracious: "She's such a beautiful young lady and entertainer and she's going to have a bright future whatever she does."

As winner, Hicks gets major record and management contracts and an enviably fast start in the music biz. But McPhee, whose background in acting and musical theater set her apart from the season's competitors, will surely fare equally well. She is about to embark on a national tour with Hicks and the 10 finalists, has a single due soon and has probably been fielding offers for the past several months.

Also, KFC has a contract on the table for the runner-up to get $10,000 to star in a commercial. For her part, McPhee, 22, is already planning a pop album along the lines of a Joss Stone or Norah Jones, she said.

Whatever happens, McPhee will do fine, said Michael Laskow, CEO of Calabasas-based Taxi.com, the world's leading independent A&R company, which spots and develops talent and material for the major labels.

"The TV exposure gives her a massive audience before she even releases a CD," he said.

"In the old days, a label would sign an act, make the record, do the marketing set-up, hope they can get the act on radio and MTV, cross their fingers and hope for the best.

"But with `Idol,' the audience is built before the CD is even recorded. So it's a guaranteed hit before the artist even enters the studio."

Commercial time on the two-hour "Idol" finale went for $1 million a minute and, if past season-enders are any indication, viewing figures could break records. The Fox-TV show opened with all 12 finalists in performance, followed by a solo spot by Prince and star duets with the likes of Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Burt Bacharach and the rock band Live. McPhee was joined by Meat Loaf for the song "It's All Coming Back to Me Now."

Said the Loaf backstage: "Katharine was unbelievable. I kept asking her, `Aren't you nervous?' She's beautiful and gorgeous and you know what they say - sex sells."

The show, which reran moments of comedy from the past four months, included cut-ins to a McPhee support party at Universal CityWalk, and to Birmingham, Ala., where young Hicks fans had dyed their hair gray in honor of their "Idol."

While Hicks has expressed interest in going on the road with a rock band, McPhee says she wants to move into film work, a career she was pursuing when she auditioned for "Idol" in January. Her mom, Peisha, is a vocal coach and cabaret singer, and her dad, Dan, is a TV producer. McPhee graduated from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks and attended the Boston Conservatory for 18 months.

Final advice from the year's "American Idol": "Do what you want to do, and be happy and be proud."



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The 2005-2006 TV Season
Postseason criticism
Monday-morning critiquing of shows (and of myself)
By Scott D. Pierce Salt Lake City Deseret Morning News May 25, 2006

Network programmers are sort of like the coach/general managers of their teams. They choose their players, they put their players in position and send them out to take on the competition.

And the results light up the Nielsen ratings scoreboard.

If your team wins more than it loses, you get praise, fame and bonuses. If it loses more than it wins, you either start saying things like, "Wait 'til next season" or you get fired.

"Supernatural," starring Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, turned out be be one of the season's best new shows.

As for TV critics, well, we usually make like sportswriters in the preseason, prognosticating which shows will be good, which will be bad, which will make the all-star teams and so on.

Then we report the scores and make like Monday-morning quarterbacks, critiquing what went right or wrong.

Just for fun, today I'll Monday-morning quarterback my own performance. What follows is a list of my preseason rankings for the shows that debuted last fall (published Sept. 9, 2005) on the six broadcast networks, along with my postseason analysis as to how the season turned out.

Overall, I'm not too displeased with myself — although I wish some of the shows had performed better in terms of quality, ratings or both.

Of course, this is pretty easy for those of my ilk. If, for example, I had called "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" a great show and predicted it would be a big hit (which I did not, thank goodness), I'd look pretty stupid. But it wouldn't have cost my employers tens of millions of dollars in lost ad revenue.
Here, then, are the preseason and postseason rankings of those shows, based entirely on quality and the opinion of one person — me.

(An ? on the postseason list indicates the show was canceled.)

1. "Invasion"
2. "Supernatural"
3. "Surface"
4. "Night Stalker"
5. "Ghost Whisperer"
6. "Threshold"
1. "Supernatural"
2. "Invasion" ?
3. "Surface" ?
4. "Ghost Whisperer"
5. "Threshold" ?
6. "Night Stalker" ?

My original estimate of "Supernatural" — that it was "pretty entertaining" — was much too faint praise. This turned out to be a really good show.

On the other hand, damning "Night Stalker" by saying it was "not working" wasn't severe enough.

I'll give "Ghost Whisperer" a few points for success, but I'm not backing off words like "tiresome" and "overdose of syrupy schmaltz."

1. "How I Met Your Mother"
2. "Everybody Hates Chris"
3. "My Name Is Earl"
4. "Kitchen Confidential"
5. "Hot Properties"
6. "Love Inc."
7. "Twins"
8. "Freddie"
9. "The War at Home"
1. "My Name Is Earl"
2. "Everybody Hates Chris"
3. "How I Met Your Mother"
4. "Kitchen Confidential" ?
5. "Love Inc." ?
6. "Twins" ?
7. "Freddie" ?
8. "Hot Properties" ?
9. "The War at Home"

I still think "How I Met Your Mother" had the single best comedy pilot last fall, but it didn't maintain that level throughout the season. It did, however, eventually find a groove and settled into being a good sitcom.

I seriously underestimated "My Name Is Earl's" staying power: "The pilot is quite good and amusing. But . . . it's an open question as to whether the premise (and the quality) can hold up week after week."

That question was answered in the affirmative.

Yes, I know "The War at Home" did OK in the ratings and was renewed, but it's still "dreadful, unfunny and vulgar."

1. "Just Legal"
2. "Head Cases"
3. "Related"
1. "Just Legal" ?
2. "Head Cases" ?
3. "Related" ?

Aw, who cares? There were all weak shows to begin with. And all of them got canceled.

1. "Prison Break"
2. "Commander in Chief"
3. "Reunion"
4. "Close to Home"
5. "Sex, Love & Secrets"
6. "Inconceivable"
7. "Bones"
8. "Criminal Minds"
9. "Killer Instinct"
10. "E-Ring"
1. "Prison Break"
2. "Reunion" ?
3. "Commander in Chief" ?
4. "Bones"
5. "Close to Home"
6. "Inconceivable" ?
7. "Sex, Love & Secrets" ?
8. "Criminal Minds"
9. "Killer Instinct" ?
10. "E-Ring" ?

As has been well-documented, "Commander in Chief" crashed and burned because of behind-the-scenes turmoil on the production staff.

"Reunion," on the other hand, was even better than I thought it would be, but got killed by Fox's mishandling.

Perhaps it was too harsh to write that the characters in "Bones" were "weird and unlikable." It's still "an attempt to do 'CSI' with a Fox attitude," but this hit-and-miss show was better than I expected it to be.

But I'm not backtracking on "Criminal Minds" ("just plain unpleasant") or "E-Ring" ("just plain awful").

1. "Three Wishes"
2. "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart"
1. "Three Wishes" ?
2. "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" ?

Actually, both were decent ideas. But neither were original ideas.

And I overestimated Stewart's chances, writing, "There's certainly going to be a big tune-factor here" before questioning the wisdom of adding another hour of "Apprentice" when Donald Trump's version was trending down.

What I didn't anticipate was that Stewart was going to try so hard to be nice that she was boring.



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The TV Watch
Surprise (Well, Not Exactly)!

'American Idol' Finale Unfolds and Unfolds
By Alessandra Stanley The New York Times May 25, 2006

Nobel Prize winners are apprised in a quick telephone call. The Pulitzer committee sends telegrams.

It took two hours and a night of a thousand Crest WhiteStrips, a hundred costume-changes and at least a dozen false notes for Fox to declare Taylor Hicks the official winner of "American Idol" last night.

And all that finale padding made for a supersize letdown. Mr. Hicks was already the expected winner; Simon Cowell had declared him the obvious choice after the showdown on Tuesday with Katharine McPhee. When his name was announced, Mr. Hicks did his best to look stunned, and Ms. McPhee managed to look delighted.

"Idol" is a monster-size celebration of mediocrity that, astonishingly, has not lost its hold on viewers even in its fifth season, and even though so many copycat contest shows have sprung up in its wake. "Idol" is a bit like "Dallas" or even Coca-Cola, one of its main sponsors. Imitations, be they "Dynasty" and "Falcon Crest," or Pepsi and RC Cola, burnish the image of the original. However cheesy and overwrought, "Idol" is its own instant classic.

The final program was packed with valedictory performances by the also-rans, celebrity cameos and many flashbacks to the most deliciously awful auditions of the season (Dave Hoover, an excitable young man who sang Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell," won a mock Golden Idol award, as did Michael Sandecki, who impersonated, horribly, a former "Idol" runner-up, Clay Aiken).

Possibly because Mr. Cowell is the producer of a new reality show, "Duets," which teams professional singers with less-than-gifted celebrities, this finale also showcased duets — Mary J. Blige and Elliott Yamin, Toni Braxton and Mr. Hicks — before the winner was named and the loser was cut loose.

It's a variety show that parents and children watch together. And that explains why the contestants' doting, teary parents were showcased in cutaways and Burt Bacharach played the piano as the contestants performed a medley of the songwriter's greatest hits.

Dionne Warwick, who has an album and a tour to promote, also made a cameo, singing "Walk on By" while Ms. McPhee and others sang backup. Prince also sang, but did not share the stage with any "Idol" performers.

The finale stretched the multigenerational happening to a near-breaking point when it moved from 17-year-old Paris Bennett's singing "We're in This Love Together" with Al Jarreau to a lame comedy sketch in which Wolfgang Puck, the celebrity chef, introduced Kellie Pickler, the young candidate who couldn't identify calamari, to escargots and live lobster.

The host, Ryan Seacrest, said 63.4 million votes were cast this season, boasting, "That's more than any president in the history of our country has ever received."

But voting on "American Idol" is like voting for class president or homecoming queen. The choice has no effect whatsoever on the voters, freeing them to cast their ballots more than once and entirely by whim — to punish the prissy teacher's pet or reward the class nerd who shares math notes.

Last night, voters chose personality over poise. There was something almost unseemly about Ms. McPhee's lounge-crooner polish. Mr. Hicks looked more like an underdog, even when he was on top. And he played that to the hilt with his victory song, "Do I Make You Proud," assuring the audience that he was living the American Dream.

The beauty of "American Idol" is that voters are not stuck with the consequences of their choice for long. The Fox series is phenomenally successful in large part because the clock is reset every season. By night's end, both Ms. McPhee and Mr. Hicks already seemed like emeritus idols, lifted up on a cloud of promotional tie-ins and ushered out the door to make room for next season's favorites.



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The 2005-2006 Prime Time Season
Fox Wins Season in 18-49, CBS Nabs Most Viewers

By Ben Grossman Broadcasting & Cable 5/25/2006

As expected, Fox rode a batch of successful new shows and the American Idol juggernaut to its second consecutive season win in the advertiser-coveted adult 18-49 demo, while CBS’ stability gave it a fourth consecutive season victory in overall viewers.

The results were the same for the May sweep period that ended Wednesday night.

For the season which ran from September 19, 2005-May 24, 2006, Fox averaged a 4.1 rating /11 share in the demo, edging out ABC’s 4.0/11, and ahead of CBS’s 3.8/10 and NBC’s 3.3/9.

CBS had an easy win in households, averaging an 8.2/13, followed by ABC’s 6.9/11, NBC’s 6.4/10 and Fox’s 6.2/10.

The story was much the same for the May sweep that spanned April 27-May 24, with Fox winning the demo and CBS leading the way in households.

Led by Idol, Fox won the period handily in the demo with a 4.8/13 average, followed by CBS’s 3.7/10, ABC’s 3.5/10 and NBC’s 3.1/9.

In households, CBS was on top with an 8.1/13, followed by Fox’s 7.0/12, NBC’s 6.1/10 and ABC’s 6.0/10.


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The 2005-2006 Prime Time Season
It's Official: Fox No.1

Network Tops Season, Sweeps in Adults 18-49
By Christopher Lisotta TVWeek.com May 25, 2006

As expected, Fox is the highest-rated network in the adults 18 to 49 demographic for both the May sweeps and the 2005-06 season.

For the season, which ran from Sept. 19, 2005 through May 24, 2006, Fox was the No.1 network in adults 18 to 49 with a 4.1 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Fox edged out ABC, which scored a 4.0 for 2005-06 in the demo. CBS was third with a 3.8, followed by NBC (3.3), Univision (1.6), The WB and UPN (both 1.3) and Telemundo (0.4). Univision's season-to-date average in the demo begins with data as of Dec. 26, 2005, when the Spanish-language network joined the Nielsen Television Index ratings system. Telemundo's data began as of Jan. 30, 2006.

For the May sweeps, which ran from April 27 through May 24, Fox was also the top network in the demo with a 4.8, easily outpacing its closest competitor, CBS, which averaged a 3.7. ABC was third with a 3.5, followed by NBC (3.1), Univision (1.5), The WB and UPN (both 1.1) and Telemundo (0.4).



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That was interesting info on Idol sales, thanks for providing. What of the voting last night, will we ever know how close the voting really was? From the little I've read, it looked like Taylor was well ahead of Kat.

Carl Jones

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Fox has not announced the "official" tally, Carl.

There are apparently no plans to do so, either.


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(If you have ever spent any time in Chicago, you most likely have seen some of this legend’s reporting.)

TV Notebook
NBC-5’s Dick Kay To Retire

(NBC Press Release) Published: May 25, 2006

CHICAGO -- May 25, 2006 -- Dick Kay, NBC5's longest-serving reporter in the station's history, is set to retire on May 31, 2006. Kay has been at NBC for 38 years and the Political Editor for the last 25 years.

Dick also hosts the only local, weekly, half-hour public affairs program, "City Desk" in the market. In fact, his last City Desk, will be a special edition, with the gubernatorial candidates facing off for the first time.

"Dick is a legend in Chicago broadcast journalism. His knowledge of the political scene and experiences through the years have made him a unique and invaluable member of the NBC5 News team" said Larry Wert, President and General Manager of NBC5. "We thank Dick for his years of service and wish him the best"

"From Nixon to Bush, Daley to Daley, Dick has covered it all " said Frank Whittaker, Vice-President of News NBC5. "He can call up just about anybody in politics and get right through. And he's not afraid of anyone! We will miss his tenacity, and his historical perspective. We thank Dick for his years of service to Chicago viewers."

Kay joined the station in 1968. He came to the station as a writer/producer. One of his first assignments was to cover some of the street demonstrations around the Democratic National Convention that year. By 1970, Kay had shifted to full-time reporting duties.

Kay has had a distinguished career. In 1985, Kay and NBC5 were awarded the George Foster Peabody medallion, the highest honor in TV broadcasting, for Kay's 9-month investigation of patronage and pork in the General Assembly. As a result of the series, titled "Political Parasites," the legislature approved a bill outlawing so-called legislative study commissions and saving taxpayers $7 million a year.

For that series, Kay was also given a National Headliner Award and a Jacob Scher Award for investigative reporting.

Kay has received a total of 11 Emmys for his individual and team reporting and commentaries. In addition, Kay's reporting and commentaries have earned him a number of First Place awards from the Associated Press, the Chicago Headline Club and the Society of Professional Journalism.

In 2001 Dick Kay was inducted into the Television Academy's Silver Circle Hall of Fame, which honors those who have made major contributions to Chicago Broadcasting for 25 years or more.

In 1984 the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans recognized Kay as "Commentator of the Year," presenting him with the coveted Dante Award.


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Crap, I was expecting a couple of shows to shift on NBC, but looks like a complete do-over.


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Critic’s Notebook
The science experiment

'Lost' colonized, then sci-fi clones invaded. Survival rate? Not good.
By Roger Catlin Hartford Courant TV Critic May 25, 2006

The saucers are gone. Their big lights have stopped flashing. Any sea monsters emerging from the deep have long since returned there.

The brief science-fiction flare-up of the 2005-06 network TV season is over.

Inspired by the success of the serialized ABC mystery "Lost," each big network started its own expensive, effects-laden new serial last fall, one of them even taking up the slot immediately after "Lost."

None survived the season.

"Threshold" on CBS left first, making way for a move of one of the network's reliable crime procedural series, "Close to Home," before disappearing permanently. Then NBC's "Surface" made a run at attracting an audience to a creatures-from-the-deep saga before it too had a premature season end.

Only ABC's "Invasion" was allowed to play out the season, increasing the presence of its invaders, who liked to arrive during hurricanes in Florida.

Other shows that played up the spooky and supernatural didn't last the season, including ABC's "Night Stalker" — an update of "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" — which was one of the first dramas pulled last fall.

One exception occurred on the smaller WB network, where "Supernatural" has survived to move with a few of that network's other most popular shows to the CW, the network that will result from a merger with UPN.

The failure of others to emulate the success of "Lost," which ended its season Wednesday, doesn't necessarily mean the public has lost its appetite for science fiction.

But it might indicate that audiences can only pay attention to so many serialized dramas at once, flying saucers or not.

The fate of "Threshold," which averaged 7.8 million viewers weekly, was clear because it was yanked in November after nine episodes. But "Invasion" lasted a full season, reaching its season finale May 17 with its 22nd episode. Like "Surface," which closed its abbreviated 15-episode season in February with a finale, its second-season fate was undecided until NBC finalized its fall schedule.

ABC Entertainment chief Steven McPherson called the failure of "Invasion," which averaged 9.2 million viewers weekly, a "frustration and disappointment." And NBC entertainment chief Kevin Reilly said that ending a story before its conclusion could upset viewers who become attached to a show. "I can't get those fans off my e-mail," Reilly said last week of "Surface," which also averaged about 9.2 million viewers weekly.

Still, a couple of sci-fi serials made it onto the fall schedules. "Jericho," on CBS, is a saga about what happens to a small Kansas town after a nuclear terrorist attack. It stars Skeet Ulrich, Gerald McRaney and Pamela Reed. "Heroes," on NBC, is about ordinary people all over the world who discover they have super powers. Its cast includes Milo Ventimiglia and Adrian Pasdar.

And "Lost" will continue, no matter what happened in Wednesday's two-hour finale.



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New schedule with the NBC revisions. Please check accuracy, a lot of copy & paste and may have missed or duplicated something.


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Thanks again CP95 -- I suspect you'll be tweaking that schedule a lot in the next three+ months.


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Critic’s Notebook
"Studio 60" moves house as NBC rejiggers its 2006-2007 fall schedule

By Melanie McFarland Seattle Post-Intelligencer TV Critic in her TV blog May 25, 2006

If there's Thursday night fighting to be had, "Studio 60" is no longer game for it.

In yet another sign that the days of "Must See TV" are long gone, NBC yanked "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" out of the precious 9 p.m. Thursday timeslot and put it at 10 p.m Mondays. That means it won't have to take a beating from ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and CBS' "CSI." Replacing the Aaron Sorkin "SNL"-inspired drama is "Deal or No Deal."

That's not even the half of it. "Law & Order," which once held solid on Wednesdays, is now airing Fridays at 10; its old slot goes to freshman drama "Kidnapped," which was on Tuesdays at 9 until Fox revealed that "House," which kicked much butt this season, wasn't going to budge.

Replacing "Kidnapped" on Tuesdays: "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." Notice that the only "L&O" that hasn't moved is "SVU," which is now the franchise's strongest sibling. (Looks like Dick Wolf's franchise is starting to crumble.)

"Crossing Jordan," originally on hold until midseason, is now set for Fridays at 8. And "Medium," one of NBC's strongest dramas, is on hold along with "Scrubs." Not a bad idea, since the schedule's going to have a few holes by the end of November, and viewers can only take so much "Deal or No Deal."

NBC fiddled with every night of the week besides Saturday, which is considered to be a once-and-future ratings loser. (While NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly assured reporters that the shuffle does not mean NBC is desperate, I think I speak for most of us when I say, "Duh-huh. Sure, we believe you.")

All snark aside, NBC traditionally goes first during upfronts week, which gives other networks the opportunity to shape their schedules accordingly. When ABC responded to NBC's enthusiastic "Studio" sales pitch by putting "Grey's" up against it, can you blame poor Reilly if he experienced a little Seinfeldian shrinkage? Besides, advertiser reaction to "Studio 60" was less than enthusiastic, and if they're not feeling it, America probably won't either.



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The 2006-2007 Season
NBC Does Quick Change on Fall Prime-Time Lineup

By Bill Carter The New York Times May 26, 2006

Little more than a week after presenting a new fall prime-time television schedule to advertisers, NBC tore up that entire lineup yesterday and announced revisions that will affect five nights of the week.

Among the biggest changes were a new home for a highly anticipated new drama from Aaron Sorkin, the creator of "The West Wing"; the scheduling of the game show "Deal or No Deal" on NBC's onetime stronghold, Thursday night; and the shift of the programming war horse "Law & Order" from its longtime home, Wednesday night at 10, to the near exile of Friday night at 10.

Kevin Reilly, the president of NBC Entertainment, acknowledged that NBC, which has fallen from first in the ratings to fourth and last place in the past two years, was reacting to the challenge of scheduling moves by its competitors, which all made their own new programming announcements after NBC 's on May 15.

"It's unusual for us," Mr. Reilly said of the wholesale changes in the prime-time lineup. "We go first, and we are fourth. Unusual circumstances lead to these kinds of measures." Such sweeping changes in a network's schedule so soon after it had been announced have happened rarely, if ever.

The biggest impetus for the programming shake-up at NBC was clearly ABC's move of the hottest scripted show now on television, "Grey's Anatomy," to Thursday night at 9, where NBC had placed Mr. Sorkin's new series "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," and where another of television's biggest hits, CBS's "CSI," already resided.

Within hours of the ABC announcement, representatives for Mr. Sorkin were on the phone with NBC executives insisting that his new drama, about the backstage conflict at a "Saturday Night Live"-type sketch-comedy show, be placed in a less vulnerable time slot.

Mr. Reilly conceded that many of the moves NBC made yesterday emanated from the need to find a new home for "Studio 60." For example, once NBC decided the best new spot was Monday at 10, that dictated moves on Tuesday and Thursday.

On Tuesday NBC did not want to stick with two new dramas in a row because that was what it would now have on Mondays, and the hole on Thursday had to be filled with some kind of show that could stand up to "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI."

That was where "Deal or No Deal" came in. "It was our hottest new show this season," Mr. Reilly said, and NBC used it all over, trying to stop the many leaks that sprang in its schedule this season.

Now, Mr. Reilly said, the show will rest all summer and then be pressed into service on two nights, Monday and Thursday. He said "Deal" had performed well against the "Grey's Anatomy" finale this season.

NBC ultimately ended up making changes every night except Saturday and Sunday.

The advantage of shifting so many shows after the advertiser presentations known as the upfronts was the opportunity to find some weaker spots in the schedules of CBS, ABC and Fox, Mr. Reilly said. "I've been watching a lot of pilots," he said, adding that he had seen all the new shows on the other networks and that that experience had made him feel "more confident in our own product."

NBC, which is under extreme pressure to find a breakthrough hit in the coming season, is especially trying to exploit the 10 p.m. slot, where it will have to face off against only two other competitors, because Fox does not have programming at 10.

That was a prime reason, Mr. Reilly said, for NBC's strategy of placing three of the dramas it has highest hopes for at that hour. Besides "Studio 60" on Monday, those dramas are "Kidnapped," a season-long thriller about the kidnapping of the son of a wealthy New York couple, and "The Black Donnellys," a saga of an Irish crime family in New York.

"Donnellys" has been designated as the midseason 10 p.m. replacement for "ER," NBC's last link to the glory days of its old Thursday nights. It will substitute for that hospital drama in January, before "ER" comes back, thus allowing "ER" to run without repeats next season.

NBC is counting on "Kidnapped" to supply some hit potential. That was why the network gave it the old "Law & Order" spot on Wednesday nights at 10.

Mr. Reilly said he had softened that blow — somewhat — for Dick Wolf, the "Law & Order" creator, by pairing his other two series in that franchise, "Criminal Intent" and "Special Victims Unit," on Tuesdays from 9 to 11.

NBC has also decided to remove one established drama, "Medium," from the fall season lineup and add one that had been designated for midseason, "Crossing Jordan." That series will go on Friday night at 8, with "Medium" now slotted to return after NBC's N.F.L. football games on Sunday nights conclude for the season. Mr. Reilly said he believed "Crossing Jordan" would play well at 8 p.m., while "Medium" needed a later time.



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The fight over a la carte
McCain Unveils a la Carte Bill

By Ted Hearn Multichannel.com 5/25/2006

A cable operator that sells programming a la carte could escape local franchising and trim its franchise-fee payments to local governments under a bill unveiled by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) Thursday.

McCain, who has yet to introduce his long-awaited, incentives-based approach to the a la carte issue, included a provision that is likely to stir trouble with broadcasters.

Under the bill, a broadcaster that refused to permit the a la carte sale of an affiliated cable network would lose its nonduplication rights under Federal Communications Commission rules.

In a real-world example, a cable company could import an ABC affiliate if The Walt Disney Co. refused to allow the cable system to offer ESPN a la carte in a market where Disney owns the ABC station. Disney owns the ABC network, 10 ABC stations and the ESPN sports channel.

"The National Association of Broadcasters does not believe any changes to the FCC's network-nonduplication rules are warranted," NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said.

In a prepared statement, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association attacked the McCain bill.

Because the bill’s franchising relief would apply to any video provider that uses public rights of way, DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. are not directly affected.

"It is completely unnecessary for the federal government to disrupt a competitive marketplace and engage in the pricing and packaging of video services,? the NCTA statement said. ?The home-video marketplace -- which, the FCC has recognized, is providing consumers with more choice than ever before -- should decide video offerings, not government intervention imposed from Washington, D.C."

Verizon Communications Inc. applauded McCain’s approach.

?For years, Sen. McCain has been a champion for the American consumer, and we welcome his voice to the video-franchise debate. Sen. McCain’s initiative adds to the momentum for passing video-choice legislation this year,? Verizon senior vice president for federal government relations Peter Davidson said.

Today, dozens of cable networks are sold in packages called tiers, which expose cable customers to a wide array of programming at probably the lowest per-channel price obtainable.

A la carte proponents believe programming sold in that manner would cut cable bills and allow parents to exile indecent programming without paying for it. Many in the cable industry -- Cablevision Systems Corp. being a notable exception -- claimed that a la carte would hike cable bills and bankrupt niche channels that can't exist outside of the tiering structure.

McCain, a la carte fan for years, was unable to introduce the bill Thursday, but he is expected to do so soon. He could try to attach it to a major telecommunications bill scheduled for a Senate Commerce Committee vote June 20.

According to a summary of the McCain bill, cable operators that satisfy the a la carte requirement could obtain a national franchise, paying no more than 3.7% of gross video revenue in franchise fees.

The bill also includes restrictions on institutional networks and channel-capacity set-asides for public, educational and governmental channels of programming.

Also according to the bill summary, to become eligible for a national franchise, a cable operator must own a cable channel ?offered on the basic tier of a digital-cable system?; must make that affiliated channel available a la carte to its subscribers and not prevent other distributors from selling it a la carte; and must notify the FCC that it will sell a la carte any channel that it was provided on an a la carte basis.

For cable operators that do not own programming, the bill requires them to notify the FCC that that it will sell a la carte any channel that it was provided on an a la carte basis.


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Originally Posted by CPanther95
New schedule with the NBC revisions. Please check accuracy, a lot of copy & paste and may have missed or duplicated something.


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thanks for the update, jim


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The 2006-2007 Season
NBC Blows Up Sked Unveiled Last Week

By Scott Collins Los Angeles Times Staff Writer in the Channel Island TV Industry blog

Remember last week, when NBC announced its fall schedule to advertisers?

Well, forget about that. Pretend it never happened.

As I predicted earlier this week, the fourth-place network announced Thursday morning that it would move "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" from Thursday to Monday, to avoid competing with ABC's "Grey's Anatomy." But that was just the start of the changes.

NBC took the opportunity to announce a wholesale restructuring of the lineup. "Law & Order," which last week looked safely ensconced in its 10 p.m. Wednesday slot, is now moving to Fridays. "Medium" is getting pushed back to midseason. "Crossing Jordan," which was supposed to return in midseason, is coming back in the fall, on Fridays. The 9 p.m. Thursday slot will be occupied by the game show "Deal or No Deal."



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TV Notebook
Liz Taylor on Larry King

There have been published reports that reclusive actress Elizabeth Taylor is ailing.

Some tabloids have her close to death.

Now, in what is a billing as an ?exclusive?, CNN is trumpeting her appearance next week with Larry King.

?Exclusive: Liz Taylor has lots of secrets to spill. Find out what they are when the legendary survivor sits down with Larry Tuesday, May 30? on Larry King Live, 9 PM ET, 6 PM PT, CNN.


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TV Notebook
More than a few finales leave viewers pining for fall

By Melanie McFarland Seattle Post-Intelligencer TV Critic Friday, May 26, 2006

Finales bring out the love-hate emotional swinging in viewers. The fact that they answer questions, resolve burning issues and tend to surprise -- love it. But their failure to live up to our expectations leaves us stewing more often than not. Indeed, the universally adored finale is rarer than a flawless ruby.

The only way we all win is to accept these seasonal or series endings, good or bad, as the precursor to a fall reboot.

This is not to say that the 2005-2006 season was a criminal year for television. On the contrary, a number of network series drew healthy crowds this season.

Yet it would be a lie to deny our relief at sweeping the old business out the door. It needed to go. Too many veteran series ended with a sigh as opposed to a bang, and other shows built us up to their summer exits, only to have us shaking our fists as they left. ("Lost," I'm looking in your direction.) As for "Desperate Housewives," let's pretend that the whole thing was a hallucination.

That said, every network had a few finales worth remembering. (Here there be spoilers if you're planning to watch later.)

"Alias" fans, I feel for you. To be dragged along for all this time only to see Sloane gain immortality and be buried alive? Couldn't the writers have finished it two seasons ago?

Nevertheless, "Grey's Anatomy" and "Lost" almost made up for that series' shortcomings, although no one in their right mind could call either perfect.

At three hours, "Grey's" was too long. Prom and the extended Meredith-McDreamy examination room delight -- try not to think about what's been lanced in there -- were excessive, to put it kindly. And that final scene: Meredith looks at Derek. Meredith looks at vet. Vet looks at Meredith looking at Derek. Derek looks at vet looking at Meredith looking at Derek. Viewer looks at watch, holds nose.

Maybe it doesn't matter, because the other docs made "Grey's" season a stunner. The look on Dr. Webber's face when he found out his wife always knew about his affair simply killed. We'll forgive Cristina Yang, who abandoned her lover, Burke (Isaiah Washington), after he was awakened and began thrashing around during surgery.

In comparison, "Lost" resembled a withholding lover. OK, we know now that the button really did need to be pushed and not doing so makes planes like Oceanic 815 fall from the sky.

It's a tragedy that Michael sold out Jack, Kate and Sawyer to get Walt back.

But why in the heck was Charlie so casual about Locke and Eko going missing? Is Desmond, surprisingly reintroduced in the season finale, still alive? What about Walt was too much for the Others to handle? "Lost," I cannot quit you, and I hate myself for that.


"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation' " last-minute shot of Grissom waiting for Sara to join him in bed was the "finally!" moment the series has moved toward lo these many years. And "Ghost Whisperer" pulling a little twist by making Melinda's best friend dead was a nice touch from the M. Night Shyamalan playbook.

The sight of Special Agent Leroy Jethro, the center of "NCIS," clinging to life after a terrorist attack wins the gasp contest. We don't know if that means Mark Harmon is on his way out, but creator Don Bellisario has told reporters that somebody is leaving.


At the end of a mediocre season, NBC managed to give us one outstanding moment.

By that, I am not referring to the series finale of "The West Wing," which was appropriately sentimental if you were a diehard viewer. Or, for that matter, "Will & Grace's" bittersweet sayonara last week. You either loved its indulgences or you hated them, but they didn't sink the ship. (What may do some damage, however, is the out-of-left-field killing of district attorney Alexandra Borgia (Mercer Island High grad Annie Parisse), on "Law & Order," which left viewers shocked and miffed.)

That great moment we're alluding to was in the season finale of "The Office," when Jim finally confessed his love to longtime crush Pam -- with tears in his eyes. A realistic, tortured reaction followed, as did a kiss among the dark cubicles. Unexpected, tender and sorrowful all at once, this was a tremendous scene in an episode written by star Steve Carell, one that hints "The Office" could be on the verge of breaking out.


Our condolences to "Everwood" viewers, who stuck with a wonderful, underappreciated series only to see it bumped off The CW schedule to bring back crusty old "7th Heaven."

But chances are you talked about the outcome of "America's Next Top Model," which crowned the lovely Danielle, a girl that Tyra Banks put through hell because of her deep Southern drawl. "Top Model" became unpredictable again this year.


A severed hand, an exploding eyeball, a dead rich girl, the Soul Patrol -- put 'em together, and you have a successful sweeps for Fox. "Prison Break" redeemed itself with a finale that zipped from one disaster to the next, losing T-Bag's hand and the U.S. president in the process.

However, it didn't match "House," which ended a marvelous season with a mind-freak that started with the snarky doctor getting shot, and ended up being nothing more than a gory hallucination. And once again, thank you "O.C." writers for sending Marissa Cooper into that great handbag boutique in the sky.

No finale matched "24's" fireworks, an apt ending to the best season yet. Jack's trip down vengeance road ended by a) taking a naval petty officer step by step through the Art of Throat Slitting; b) having Jack break the main terrorist's neck with his legs; c) avenging his pals by shooting Robocop; d) seeing Jack fail -- fail! -- to beat a confession out of President Logan -- thereby e) giving the first lady an opportunity to snag her husband using her feminine wiles and then gloat.

And, finally, a ruse that begins with the mention of Kim calling on a land line (which a guy who lives by his cell phone doesn't find odd in the least) gets Jack nabbed by Chinese operatives! They literally tossed him on a slow boat to you know where! January cannot come soon enough!

That, friends, is what a season finale is supposed to do: Make you wish for the ability to skip a few months and dive into a new season straightaway.

Perhaps it is better that these finales didn't give us everything we wanted -- absence does make the heart grow fonder.



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Critic’s Notebook
Solving the mystery of the 'CSI' finale shocker

By Maureen Ryan from the Chicago Tribune TV blog May 25, 2006

That sound you heard at 9 p.m. (Central) on May 18 was collective gasping from millions of ?CSI? fans as they watched an intimate scene from the show’s season finale, in which Gil Grissom (William Petersen) chatted casually with co-worker Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox) -- in a bedroom.

The two investigators are in a relationship, executive producer Carol Mendelsohn confirms. And it’s ?not so new.?

She says the show’s many law-enforcement contacts say that those who work in the crime field are often attracted to each other, due to shared experiences and interests. She adds that Grissom’s relationship with Sidle is part of the character’s ongoing evolution.

?In real life, relationships take a long time to develop. Real life isn’t a soap opera. And real lives change and flow. And I think Grissom has changed over the six seasons? of ?CSI,? says Mendelsohn (who, like star Petersen, is a Chicagoan).

?I think Grissom always believed that to operate at the highest level professionally, he needed to stand a distance away from people,? she adds. ?He needed to be objective;, he couldn’t be subjective. But while you’re resisting all that, life happens.?

For those who might have thought the actors had to be talked into the plot development -- far from it, according to Mendelsohn. The actors jumped at the chance to portray the relationship, she says, and Petersen was so into it that he even picked the shirt he wore in the scene.

Mendelsohn says the growing number of revelations about the ?CSI? characters’ personal lives is a result of the actors’ desires for those kinds of stories, and also springs from a wish on the part of the writers to show what makes the investigators tick. There’s no pressure, she says, either from within the show or from the network, to make the show more like ?Grey’s Anatomy,? the hit medical soap that ?CSI? will directly compete with in the fall.

?We are not a soap opera. We are not a serial,? she says. ?We will always be a show about science, mystery, clues, and twists and turns. And this is a twist and turn. But it’s not going to be the Grissom-Sara show from now on.?

As for the fact that serialized, soapier shows are now the hot thing, Mendelsohn says, ?We have never, ever responded to external events, and I hope we don’t, because I do believe that’s when great shows stumble -- when they allow external pressures to direct the story lines.?

As for the competition with ?Grey’s? -- a show she says she enjoys -- Mendelsohn says, bring it on.

?I don’t know what’s going to happen but I do think we can both coexist on that night. And we’re going to do our best to deliver the best season ever.?

The text of my interview with Mendelsohn is below.

There was a huge response to the Gil-Sara scene, both positive and negative. But the first question I have to ask is, is the relationship new?

?I think the viewers are always able to draw their own conclusions about the relationships. It was a very private, intimate moment and I think it suggested a level of comfortability that comes from a relationship that is not so new.

?You talk to people in law enforcement all the time, and [the law-enforcement veterans who work on the shows or consult for ?CSI’ shows] say law enforcement people tend to gravitate toward law enforcement people. What has always been true about ?CSI’ and what as writers we make every effort to maintain is -- there’s a reality to it. In real life, relationships take a long time to develop. Real life isn’t a soap opera. And real lives change and flow.

?And I think Grissom has changed over the six seasons. I believe that he always, from the beginning [when Grissom called in Sara in ?Cool Change’], that it suggested that Grissom and Sara had a relationship [before she came to Las Vegas]. Whether it was platonic, whether they had once had an encounter in San Francisco ? it’s a matter of debate among the writers as I’m sure it is among the fans.

Is it accurate to say that Sara has been interested in Gil for some time, but that he sort of held her off, flirting back but still holding her at bay to some extent?

?I would say more precisely, what is accurate is that, yes, Sara has always been interested in Grissom. A confusion existed as to whether [it was as a] father figure, friend or more than that.

?But if you look at Gil Grissom, who is the center of our show and always has been, if you look at Gil Grissom’s character from the pilot to Season 6, and you look at it as a crime scene, and look at the clues and look at the episodes, I think you discern an arc. Grissom in the pilot was much more open, more flirtatious. But over the course of the series we have seen Grissom be part of the world, withdraw from the world (which always means withdrawing from the people around him), [and] I think when he lost his hearing he retreated. When he got his hearing back I think he came back and embraced the world and got slapped in the face by all those ugly bad things out there again.

?An episode that the fans always point to is ?Butterflied.’ There we heard Grissom express for the first time his feelings for Sara Sidle and his reticence to ever go forward and pursue a relationship. And I think that it is from ?Butterflied’ on, that if you look Grissom, look at ?Bloodlines,’ which ended season 4 and going into season 5, [that is] where Grissom embraced his team…

?I think Grissom always believed that to operate at the highest level professionally, he needed to stand a distance away from people. He needed to be objective, he couldn’t be subjective. But while you’re resisting all that, life happens. The connection that Warrick and Nick expressed for Grissom in ?Mea Culpa,’ when Grissom lost his team, is something that Grissom felt too. Unexpressed, albeit. You can say I don’t want to be a family with these people, I want to keep my distance, but the truth is, over time, he got very close to them and he cared for them.

?And I think that ?Mea Culpa’ and ?Grave Danger’ ? the love of Grissom’s team basically brought Nick to life. And I think that Grissom evolved even more Season 6. The straw hat’s as perfect example. Grissom realizes life is short, Grissom realizes he is closer to the end of his career, at least at CSI -- [though] he’s still a young man ? than he is to the beginning of his career. I think that he is suddenly of this world, cares about his people, and I think that slowly he allowed himself to open up to Sara.

?Obviously we are not a soap opera. We are not a serial. We will always be a show about science, mystery, clues and twists and turns. And this is a twist and turn. But it’s not the Grissom-Sara show from now on.?

There are a fair number of fans who commented on my site that they want the show to be about the casefiles, not necessarily about relationships.

?I think we support those fans. The beauty of ?CSI’ is, yes, it is about the mystery and the science and the cases, but one of the other factors that has made us a fan favorite, what has made our fans so loyal, is that we have the best cast on television. And the characters that have been created by those actors and with the writers and with Anthony Zuiker, they’re wonderful characters and people love them. And we sometimes stop for a moment, and it is just a brief moment, to allow those characters to live and breathe and express who they are, and I think that has been true from the beginning.

?A little always goes a long way on ?CSI,’ but a little always seems to be magnified on ?CSI.’ And the show has always told us what works and what doesn’t work. We have, over the seasons, written many more character scenes that the fans never saw. We shot them, and we looked at them in the cutting room, and looked at them in the context of an entire episode, and they didn’t work.

?I believe very strongly that Grissom would like people to believe that his brain is bigger than his heart. Because that makes it easier for him. But I think, when you are passionate about anything, and he’s passionate about his career, that makes you capable of passion in other parts of your life. And I think that he does care and he does feel and that is what makes him a great CSI.

?And I really think that the scene is more about who the man is. This is a relationship that the audience is privy to but no one else at CSI is privy too. We decided [to do this] as writers, and after lengthy conversations with Billy and Jorja, because we would never go into this kind of scene without [consulting them]. As with everything on ?CSI,’ it’s a collaboration. We believe it is grounded in reality, and I don’t mean to speak for Jorja and Billy, but to see on television a relationship between mature, adult professionals is interesting.

?It doesn’t mean that we’re going to revisit it every week, but it means that we let the audience in, to get a glimpse of a very private Grissom. A Grissom with his clothes on, albeit he was lying in a bed, he was fully dressed [laughs]. But they never really touched.?

Billy Petersen is signed for one more season of ?CSI,? right? Can you foresee a ?CSI? without him?

?You’d have to ask Billy. I know he is signed for another season, beyond that I don’t know. We all love Billy, and we all love Grissom. And there are some things in life you just don’t want to think about. It’s too hard to contemplate. We’ve always said to Billy, when you want to leave, let us know, let the writers know, and he’s never said that. It’s amazing that going into season 7 we have our entire cast intact. That’s a testament to them. I assume if we have a very, very long run that we will lose some of our actors. But that’s a long way of saying, I can’t think that far [laughs].

?Sometimes a great show has a heart that beats independently of all of us, the writers, everyone. … I think the show’s greatness exists apart from any one of us, or perhaps all of us. Can I say the show will go on? I think it will. Will the joy be gone in Mudville if we can’t write for Billy and Grissom? Oh boy, yes.

?But at the moment the show is about Grissom and his team, and I hope it will always be about that.?

You talked about consulting with Billy on that scene. Has there been a desire on his part to show more of who Grissom is, show more of his personal life?

?After the hiatus, you should get in touch with Billy, he will definitely have insights on that. When Naren Shankar, the co-showrunner, and I went to Billy and said we would like to do this, he got so excited. I think it felt natural for him. It felt natural for Grissom to be going to this place. And Billy enjoyed the idea of portraying a mature, adult relationship. It’s not people falling into bed. It’s real life. He was excited, excited down to, he picked the shirt he wore. Billy and Jorja were really excited about it.

?As writers and as fans -- I almost can’t look at the screen. I think Grissom is my Grissom, and I think we all feel that way. When Grissom kissed Lady Heather, I couldn’t watch. The writers are very much in the same boat as the fans.?

Can you clear one thing up -- did Grissom actually sleep with Lady Heather?

?I think it’s for the fans to intuit what their relationship actually is. I can say, it’s an ongoing debate among the writers. There are two camps -- among everybody, cast, crew and everybody at ?CSI.’ There are those who believe that yes, they did sleep together, and there are people like me that believe that they had an intimate encounter of some kind, but it was not necessarily sexual. Billy may be of two minds about it himself. Listen, there certainly is a connection to Lady Heather, she is an intellect and a scholar in her own way. But we saw the dark side of that this season. But you would think he would have a very different connection with Sara. He can talk about bugs with Sara.?

How romantic is that?

?I think for a forensic anthropologist, it is!?

So next year you guys are going up against ?Grey’s Anatomy?? What are your thoughts on that?

?We have been through this once before, when Les Moonves [head of CBS] moved us from Friday to Thursday. Anthony Zuiker and Jerry Bruckheimer and Billy were like, ?Bring it on.’ I was a little concerned, but I learned from that. I learned that two great shows can coexist on a night. There is enough audience. I believe that it’s a lot of competition for us, it makes next season very exciting for us. It’s a great show. I don’t know what’s going to happen but I do think we can both coexist on that night. And we’re going to do our best to deliver the best season ever.?

We’ve been talking about the fact that there has been more about character’s personal lives in the last season or two of ?CSI? -- is that in any way a response to the success of shows like ?Grey’s??

?No. Our response on ?CSI’ is never to external events. I think a show starts to struggle when it’s reactive to external events, as opposed to growing and evolving from what is happening organically in the show.

?The writers and actors are very collaborative on our show, and it is a testament to their acting that they are able to pick up a fiber, swab a blood sample and make it look so interesting and engage our viewers. It was really to allow our actors, who are such great actors, to do a little more. A chance to… I don’t want to say exercise their chops… It was a request. It was something that was obviously very important to our actors. As the show grew and we went on season by season… I think that we’ve focused a little more, in small doses, on [the question], who are these people that we see every Thursday night? We’ve always tried to do it in an organic fashion and never have it substitute [for the mysteries].?

?[A good example is] Sarah Goldfinger’s ?Rashomama’ -- you got to have fun with our characters, but it was such an engaging mystery. And that is what we try to do.

?We have never ever responded to external events and I hope we don’t, because I do believe that’s when I believe great shows stumble -- when they allow external pressures to direct the storylines. Of course, if I read about something in the newspaper, that doesn’t stop us from being inspired by things that happen in the world. But I’m just saying, increased competition, shows are serialized, soap operas are back in fashion ? I have never believed that that works [following the trend] and that’s something we’ve never done on ?CSI.’

?As a fan, I want to know a little more about them. I think we’ve done very effective stories revealing Catherine’s backstory and tying her to Vegas. And that has been a theme throughout the season, Old Vegas and New Vegas.

?But Grissom has always been a very private person and this is an instance where we allow the fans to look through a window into a private moment.?

Would it be fair to characterize what you’re saying as -- it’s the natural evolution of the show and it’s the desire of the actors to have that different flavor of those personal scenes to play?

?It is. I think it would surprise the fans to know the many conversations and the days we spend talking about the characters on ?CSI.’ We especially do it at the beginning of every season and at the end of every season. You can’t write a show unless you talk about who these people are and what makes them tick. We don’t always show what makes them tick, but when a situation presents itself, when a story lends itself to that, it’s exciting for both the writers and the actors to have a little blip of the private person.

?There is a delicate balance on ?CSI’ always, between the personal and the case. We try to keep that balance. I think the fans would say maybe we go a little to one side, maybe to the other side. But I do think an episode like ?Rashomama,’ the fans liked it. We got to see what our characters thought about marriage. There is a place for character development on ?CSI,’ we always have to handle it carefully.

?Sometimes maybe the writers tend to go overboard, but [between the writers and the actors, etc] it’s like the checks and balances of government.

There was a huge response on my Web site and on many others regarding the finale. Have you been experiencing that, have you heard or read the feedback from fans?

?Like anybody else, I go on certain Web sites, and there were lots of e-mails, and from talking to [?CSI’ writer] David Rambo ? the fans got his e-mail, and so he has received quite a lot of pro and con mail. And from CBS, I’ve heard there’s been quite an outpouring. Going into the seventh season, I love the fact that everybody cares about our show.?



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Critic’s Notebook
It's season finale mania!

By Maureen Ryan from the Chicago Tribune TV blog May 25, 2006

Who would sit and watch more than two dozen season finales? The Watcher would! Here are some thoughts on May’s batch of season-ending episodes, complete with Watcher-ific ratings.

5: Super awesome
4: Kind of awesome
3: Darn watchable
2: Not too bad
1: Stinky

Now, let’s get to it -- as Jack Bauer would say, ?We are running out of time!?

?24?: My new favorite people: Martha Logan, Aaron Pierce and Chloe’s ex-husband Morris. If Jean Smart, who masterfully played Martha all season, doesn’t get an Emmy for her ?24? work, then that’s Jack Bauer’s next mission -- wreak havoc on the television academy. As for Gregory Itzin’s galvanizing work as President Charles Logan - words fail me. Almost. Itzin took a character that could well have been a mass of petulant contradictions and made him one of the most compelling, slippery villains in recent memory. Itzin’s sensational work and his extraordinary scenes with Smart -- not the half-dozen loose plot threads - are what I’ll remember about this slam-bang finale. By the way, a show of hands, please -- do you think Christopher Henderson is really dead? And do you think Jack will be back next year as an agent of the Chinese government -- working for them under duress?
Rating: 4

?Cold Case?: Lem! For ?Shield? fans, this typically solid ?Cold Case? outing was a chance to see actor Kenneth Johnson, who played the late, greatly lamented Lem on ?The Shield,? again. Let’s hope we haven’t seen the last of the winning Johnson on ?Cold Case?; his character, Joseph, an addiction counselor thought dead by Lilly Rush’s cold-case squad, turned out to be very much alive and became a love interest for Lilly. Rating: 3

?Prison Break?: Let’s give a hand to T-Bag, who lost one in the course of this typically edge-of-your-seat season-ender. The gang was out of the joint and on the lam, but a couple prisoners didn’t stay with the group -- you have to wonder where Tweener will end up. And what happened to Dr. Sara? After helping the escapees, she didn’t look so good by the end of the finale, as medics discovered that she had been doing some Dr. House-style morphine injections.
Rating: 3

?NCIS?: Could somebody take Tony DiNozzo’s obnoxiousness level down a few notches? Because his brashness is starting to grate. Anyway, after being seriously injured in a terrorist blast on a ship, the injured Gibbs clashed with his bosses regarding the pursuit of the bad guys and ended up quitting the NCIS unit. But don’t worry, Gibbs will be back next year. No, really! No need to send me several dozen e-mails inquiring after Gibbs’ health and future prospects.
Rating: 2

?Gilmore Girls?: How depressed can you be about a finale that is actually reasonably OK? Pretty depressed, because the ?Girls? will be without their indispensable creators next year on the new CW network. As if Lorelai ending up in bed with Christopher -- again -- wasn’t enough of a bummer! On the upside, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Chloe on ?24,? showed up as a possible town troubadour, alongside Sonic Youth, Joe Pernice and Yo La Tengo, among many others.
Rating: 2

?That ’70s Show?: That was one tepid ending to this long-running show. Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher did return, but the best things about the finale were Justin Long as a kooky friend of Fez’s and the underrated Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp as Eric Forman’s parents.
Rating: 2

?Will and Grace?: The hourlong finale itself was mildly funny but nothing terribly memorable. Still, the duet between Karen and Jack was sweet, and the clip show before the finale had me laughing until I cried. Nothing is funnier than Jack doing his Cher impersonation -- for Cher.
Rating: 3

?CSI: NY?: Boy, it’s not a season finale until you blow something up these days, huh? Mac was in a building that blew up, but survived -- and thanks, ?CSI: NY,? for providing that scene in which he messed around with a blast victim’s innards in a bid to save the guy’s life. Gross! Mac’s military past came into play as he and the squad tracked the deranged bomber, and Gary Sinise got some nice character work as the reticent Mac recalled his toughest moments as a Marine.
Rating: 3

?The O.C.?: Marissa died. She took freakin’ forever to do it as well. Sigh. But will her long overdue death spark any life in this show? Hard to say. Not sure anybody will be able to stand the Kaitlin and Taylor show.
Rating: 1

?Survivor Panama: Exile Island?: Who would have predicted that the one guy who dominated the challenges would also find the hidden immunity idol as well, thereby making that new ?Survivor? twist not much of a factor? Let’s hope the idol gets used more next year, and that one person doesn’t dominate so much of the game. Still, the nearly unbeatable Terry wasn’t in the finals, and despite Shane’s entertaining interjections, it was a boring showdown between Aras and Danielle. What a bland finish. Still, I’ll be watching next season. You never know, the next crop might be more lively.
Rating: 1

?The Amazing Race?: So the hippies won, and many ?TAR? fans hope that one day the Travel Channel commissions a BJ and Tyler travel show. Having said that, why does everyone think the hippie duo, endearing though they were, were ultra-ethical? They didn’t tell the frat boys (who had ethics issues of their own) a key fact -- that a hotel on the final leg had Internet access. Still, I’m glad they won this non-gripping edition of the reality stalwart, as opposed to the smug frat boys.
Rating: 2

?Lost?: Hope Desmond didn’t die in that blast. And why did Michael think getting on a boat with Walt was a good idea? Still, it was a satisfying close to the season -- way better than last year’s finale.
Rating: 3

?Everwood?: Well, the finale hasn’t aired yet, but the fact that this drama is ending June 5 and ?Seventh Heaven? is returning means the CW network already has two serious strikes against it (the first was commissioning another season of ?Gilmore Girls? without Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino at the helm). Rating: 5 (Yes, I’m psychic - I know it’ll be great). can trim

?American Idol?: Taylor Hicks was by far the more enjoyable performer, so I suppose it was good that he won -- but let’s hope that the ?Idol? machine doesn’t destroy what’s good about him.
Rating: 2 (come on, it was so weird you had to like it at least a little)

?My Name Is Earl?: How far will Earl go to do the right thing? He’ll give all his money away to a stranger whom he thinks should have had his winning lottery ticket. But karma being what it is, Earl got the loot back - and crossed something off his list. Not on par with ?Joy’s Wedding,? but still worthwhile.
Rating: 3

?The Office?: Wow, wow, wow. Wow! What a sensational season finale -- the best of the lot listed here, by far. The Dwangela slap, Michael’s two dates, Creed’s general oddness, the debut of the most righteously rocking Scrantonicity -- all of that was great fun, but nothing could prepare any ?Office? fan for The Kiss. Wow!
Rating: 5. Wait, scratch that. Double 5.

?The Unit?: The soapy stuff between Col. Ryan (the ever-wonderful Robert Patrick) and Tiffy (Abby Brammell) was engaging and Kim’s smackdown of the other wives was great, but the rest of the show still seems kind of off. Like, how would a gang of Bosnian war criminals get inside the U.S. and be able to shoot up the restaurant where the Unit gang was celebrating? Come on.
Rating: 2

?Grey’s Anatomy?: Too dang much. Too much Denny, too much flipped-out Izzie, too much Callie, too much of everything -- though that scene with the chief and the interns was fantastic. And, of course, we’ll be back next year, begging for more ?Grey’s? goodness. But a commenter, Alan, on the Watcher blog summed it up best: ?I want more Bailey, less melodrama!? Here, here.
Rating: 2

?How I Met Your Mother?: Lily and Marshall splitting? Ted and Robin getting together? It’s a mixed-up, crazy world. Still, the finale was another typically fine outing of this underrated CBS gem. I can’t wait to see what happens, and I’m also dying for my next Barney fix. You need to be watching this show.
Rating: 4

?Scrubs?: Jeepers, everybody’s pregnant at Sacred Heart Hospital, including J.D.’s new galpal. Let’s hope NBC’s schedule falls apart next year (hard to imagine, I know), so that utility player ?Scrubs? makes an early fall reappearance. The show’s fifth season was truly a keeper. Rating: 4

?Everybody Hates Chris?: What would a father of three with multiple jobs do on Father’s Day? Sleep, of course. And eat. And dance to ?I Will Survive.? Love that Julius.
Rating: 3

?Veronica Mars?: So Beaver (sorry, Cassidy) killed that busload of kids? I’m still wrapping my head around that one. Still, it was a spectacular ending to a very (maybe overly) complicated season. And I don’t know about you, but I’m still jumping for joy that Keith Mars wasn’t killed.
Rating: 5

?Numb3rs?: I love that CBS thinks its audience is smart enough to understand a show in which nerds talk earnestly about ?kernel density estimation.? OK, CBS, if we’re so intelligent, why do you keep foisting ?CSI: Miami? on us? Anyhow, I’m no fan of the kind of serial killer plot seen in this finale, but there’s something about the lovable geekiness of David Krumholtz that keeps me trying to figure out the answer. Maybe part of me thinks I’ll get a gold star from the teacher if I do?
Rating: 2

?House?: So the entire finale took place inside House’s head, aside from the part where he got shot. Very tricky -- in the best possible way (and in the dream-sequence wars, Greg House beats Tony Soprano hands down). And it was kind of cool that writer/director David Shore made House spend most of the episode wearing a drafty hospital gown. Now the grumpy doc has got to know what it’s like to be a patient! By the way, how amazing was that robot sex with Cameron? Total robot hotness! Rating: 4

?The West Wing?: A slow, sluggish, not-very-dramatic ending to this longrunning political drama. Well, at least Donna got a nice office. Rating: 1

?Medium?: Allison DuBois as a high-powered, childless attorney married to a smarmy jerk? Say it ain’t so. A swell alternate-reality episode, and a typically thought-provoking hour of TV. Bonus: The finale’s soundtrack made great use of the Dixie Chicks’ ?Lullaby.?
Rating: 3

?Without a Trace?: It’s really not a good idea to date Jack Malone. In the finale, his pregnant girlfriend and co-worker, played by Mary Ellen Mastrantonio, was kidnapped by a crazy killer who shot up the FBI offices. Yikes. That is so not romantic. But at least we got to see Jason Priestley as an unlikable killer and thief.
Rating: 3

?Alias?: I didn’t watch it. I’d rather remember the glory days of ?Alias,? and besides, my DVR was busy recording ?24,? ?Everwood? and ?Medium.? Sorry, Sydney. Rating: N/A



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John Paul Times II
CBS's Biography of the Late Pope Has a Life That ABC's Lacks

By Tom Shales Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, December 1, 2005; C01

Any crime-show fan knows about "good cop, bad cop." The networks, in their self-defeating inscrutability, are playing "good pope, bad pope" -- although not in that order. ABC and CBS have scheduled film biographies of Pope John Paul II to air in the nights ahead, with CBS at least being able to say that its film was announced first.

Steering clear of such wordplay as "pope-pourri" isn't easy, but rendering a verdict on the films is a no-brainer: ABC's is bad, and CBS's is not just good but aglow, a kind of thinking viewer's holiday ornament. If you see only one pope movie this month, and that ought to be enough, CBS's "Pope John Paul II" is by far the wiser choice.

A disclaimer at the top of ABC's "Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II" labels it a "dramatization" based on "events" in the pope's life. It might indeed be based on events, but calling it a dramatization is a whopper. To be a dramatization, it would have to contain drama. Even though the life of the Polish pope, who died April 2, obviously is loaded with dramatic potential, the film (airing tonight at 8 on Channel 7) seems listlessly uninterested in exploring it.

The whole thing, not just its dialogue, has the stiffness of rhetoric and the rigidity of dogma, extremely unfortunate in that John Paul was praised for the many ways he made the pope a more accessible, activist, pliant sort of fellow. Putting "fear" in the title was an ironic touch, because the producers approach the story timidly, taking pains to avoid controversy and making the papal portrait so bland that its remarkable hero is reduced to the dimensions of the proverbial guy next door -- sort of like the neighbor half-glimpsed in "Home Improvement."

Three actors play the man born Karol Wojtyla within the first 15 minutes of ABC's movie -- one as a tot, one as a teenager, and then Thomas Kretschmann as the grown-up Wojtyla. Playing pope is always risky business -- something about those robes turns actors to stone -- and Kretschmann seems simply scared stiff. His John Paul displays little warmth or wit -- qualities for which the real pope was celebrated -- and ages awkwardly. About the only time Kretschmann shows any vigor is when scolding Archbishop Oscar Romero (Joaquim de Almeida) for allegedly "preaching Marxism" and "splitting the church" in El Salvador.

Previous films by director Jeff Bleckner, incidentally -- and incidental he is -- include an excellent group biography of the Beach Boys. Except for a moving montage at the end of "Have No Fear" (the final image is a dilly) and a few small touches, the movie is infected with a dolorous diffidence. Even the re-created assassination attempt in 1981 has little impact.

A subsequent scene, in which John Paul visits the would-be assassin in his cell and tells him, "God loves you," does have welcome emotional punch. It's a pity that hardly any other scenes equal it. The film is less dramatization than recitation, opening with the pope's visit to the Mideast in 2000 and then flashing back to his boyhood, the early death of his mother, his dabbles in theater, the Nazi invasion of Poland, the Communist takeover, his decision to become a priest, his rise within the hierarchy, and so on.

The movie is more or less obligated to touch upon the ugly scandals involving child abuse by priests that have plagued the church. Told of the allegations, the pope declares, "There is no place in the priesthood for those who would harm the young." And that's that.

The ABC and CBS films portray John Paul as a progressive who brought much-needed modernization to the church; they avoid what some considered his reactionary views on birth control, abortion, gay rights and other hot topics. But there's no need to make either film a shopping list of controversies. Besides, CBS's film gets into weightier issues, matters that are genuinely spiritual, and explores them intelligently. It's provocative but in a deeper way than is usual for a TV movie.

"Pope John Paul II" (airing Sunday night at 9 and Wednesday night at 8 on Channel 9) divides the role in two, with Cary Elwes playing Karol "Lolek" Wojtyla for most of Part 1 and Jon Voight taking over early in Part 2, just after Wojtyla, then 58, is elected the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

Writer-director John Kent Harrison uses the assassination attempt to frame the story, so Voight appears before Elwes does. Getting into flashbacks is mainly a matter of choosing which tattered old cliches one wants to use, but Harrison does it with inventiveness, a signal that the film will be much more artful than ABC's dry downer. CBS got guidance and a seal of approval from the Vatican, but if that implies the film will be all scrubbed and syrupy, it's anything but. ABC's film profiles a historical figure, while CBS gives us a portrait of a real human being.

Elwes leaves his pretty-boy image way behind with an engaging and robust portrayal of Wojtyla as a young man who loses his mother, father and brother before he is 20 and must stand by helplessly, for the most part, as his beloved Poland is overrun with Nazis.

While ABC's film depicts the Nazis as an inconvenience, "Pope John Paul II" makes palpable the panic gripping the Poles as the Nazis approach and then occupy their country. Wojtyla is sitting in a Krakow classroom in 1939 when soldiers burst in, rip a cross off the wall and drag away the teacher. His last words to his students as he is carried off: "Do not forget who you are!" This has tremendous resonance throughout the film, especially when, as pope, Wojtyla returns to his native land and lends support to the Solidarity movement and leader Lech Walesa.

Although it might strike some as a token, "some of my best friends are" gesture, one of the pope-to-be's best childhood friends is in fact Jewish, and Wojtyla is as opposed to anti-Semitism as he is to fascism and, later, communism. The two men have a reunion in Rome as aging adults that is one of the film's most emotionally rewarding scenes.

The script is unusually successful at communicating the meaning of being spiritually gifted, portraying Wojtyla as earnest and moral without turning him into a goody-goody. His inspirations include the Polish archbishop (played by James Cromwell) who tells him, "This is the highest form of religion: to give hope to those who have none." Imaginative casting brings back some once-familiar faces not seen frequently in recent years. Ben Gazzara shows a heretofore untapped dignity as an elderly Vatican secretary and Christopher Lee, so frequently a menacing figure, is a sweetheart in the role of a Polish cardinal.

But the revelation is Voight, who of course has kept very busy as an actor in recent years, whether having a hammy old time in the ridiculous "Anaconda" or biting Kramer's arm on an episode of "Seinfeld." The man who immortalized Joe Buck, the two-bit hustler of "Midnight Cowboy," shows yet another side as the adult pope, able to make him a man of extraordinary generosity when it comes to sharing his passion for life. Restless for quests and causes, Voight's John Paul is agonized when infirmities restrict him, and these scenes are achingly poignant.

There's a comic side, meanwhile, to sequences in which Leonid Brezhnev and other commie muck-a-mucks wrestle with the thorny problem that the Polish pope presents for them, especially when he voices his empathy for Walesa. "Bringing communism to Poland," one of the bureaucrats groans, "is like trying to saddle a cow."

It is said of Wojtyla, during a Vatican conference in the 1960s, that he has "a remarkable talent to reach people," and we see this in Voight's eyes, expressions, in his every gesture. This kind of infectiousness isn't easy to convey without using cheap tricks that are the equivalent of licking the audience's face. Voight somehow combines stature and cuteness.

Although shot on a lavish scale in Italy, Poland and elsewhere, "Pope John Paul II" succeeds on intimate terms even when troops are marching or huge crowds are filling St. Peter's Square, and Elwes and Voight are largely responsible. The movie is honestly and actually about something -- about a man, yes, and about the value of belief, but also about that "remarkable talent" the pope has. It's the ability to instill joy in human hearts, and the film not only celebrates it but, in its finest moments, even possesses it.



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John Paul Times II
A Monumental Man of God: Two Takes on the Life of John Paul II

By Alessandra Stanley The New York Times

The last time there were two popes - one in Rome, the other in Avignon - was almost 600 years ago. This time around, it is not much easier to determine who is the more legitimate John Paul II: Jon Voight on CBS or Thomas Kretschmann on ABC.

CBS, like Rome, has the edge. "Pope John Paul II," which begins on Sunday, is a big-budget, four-hour mini-series that was made with the Vatican's blessing and with help from members of Opus Dei. ABC's "Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II" tonight has a whiff of Avignon-style defiance beneath its piety. The writers included one incident in the Polish pope's 26-year reign that delicately hints that even this pope's infallibility had limits.

Both movies are deeply admiring of the pope as a religious figure and a world leader. CBS does a better, more thorough job of telling his story, and Mr. Voight is convincing and compelling as the adult Karol Wojtyla. But the mini-series's perspective is a shade more orthodox, one that focuses on his spiritual teachings and his crusade against Communism. ABC's version comes closer to a Commonweal critique: highly respectful, but also delicately raising the question of whether the pope's fierce anti-Communism made him a tad inflexible in his early dealings with liberation theology in Latin America, particularly in war-torn El Salvador.

The ABC version shows the pope in his old age repenting for the stern way he reprimanded the left-leaning Archbishop ?scar Arnulfo Romero before the archbishop's assassination by a right-wing death squad in 1980.

It is not surprising that two networks came out with movies about the pope at the same time and selected different aspects of his papacy: John Paul II, who died in April, was a world leader with a vast influence that reached far beyond his flock. But a papal biography is a little like a midnight Mass at Christmas: there is something of interest in it for anyone, but it best serves those who are already believers.

ABC's two-hour version begins in Jerusalem in the year 2000, when the ailing John Paul II jolted history by praying at the Western Wall, the Jewish holy site, and asking forgiveness for all the sins of the Roman Catholic Church. Later, kneeling in prayer, he reminisces about his life, musing, "God truly works in mysterious ways." Flashbacks begin with his boyhood in Wadowice, where his piety already was evident and deepened with the death of his mother.

It is hard to work sex into a biography of a modern pope, but ABC manages to gin up a hint of youthful romance, though the producers took a poetic license that in darker times might have put the Inquisition on their case. After moving to Krakow with his father in 1938, the young Karol, known to his friends as Lolek, pursued his high school love of theater. In a rehearsal scene, he kisses a fellow student, then whispers to her, "I wish it was real."

Most biographers agree that Wojtyla had a special bond with a high school classmate, Halina Krolikiewicz, an amateur actress who remained a close friend throughout his life, though she always insisted that their friendship was solely platonic. Here, the young woman is a Jewish student who rebuffs his courtship ("That's all I need," she says) because she is emigrating to Palestine. In real life Wojtyla was friendly with Ginka Beers, a Jewish medical student in Krakow who fled anti-Semitism, but biographers do not cast her as a love interest, even a pure-hearted one. The writers, limited to a two-hour film, evidently decided to compress two different biographical points in one scene. Young Wojtyla had many close Jewish friends, and as a youth he was a charismatic athlete and scholar who led a normal, healthy life.

Mr. Kretschmann, a German actor who played the music-loving Nazi officer in "The Pianist," is skillful at conveying the psychology of young Wojtyla, particularly his sense of helplessness when the Nazis invade Poland and some of his friends join the resistance. He decides to enter the priesthood and finds his own path of peaceful resistance by joining an underground seminary. But the movie races so quickly through the milestones of his career as a bishop in Communist Poland, his election in 1978, the attempt on his life in 1981, and his confrontation with the Polish authorities that some of the most powerful moments in his papacy are underplayed.

So are some of the less exalted milestones. In mentioning the sex abuse scandal that rocked the American church and darkened the last years of the pope's reign, the writers make sure the buck stops long before it reaches St. Peter's. John Paul II is shown lecturing American bishops about zero tolerance. Privately, when an aide timidly asks the pope whether even pedophile priests can be redeemed, John Paul II replies, "Every sin can be forgiven, but by God, not by me."

CBS opens its biography with the 1981 assassination attempt in St. Peter's Square, building a thrillerlike suspense as the then-vigorous pope smiles and jokes with his followers while the Turkish gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, snakes through the crowd. As the pope lies near death on a stretcher, he replays his life in flashbacks. His childhood is covered more briskly in this version, which dwells more on his youth during the war, his struggle between pacifism and resistance and his battle with Communist officials after the war is over. Cary Elwes ("The Princess Bride") plays the young Karol Wojtyla, and while he does not look the part, he manages to convey both the young priest's devotion and his nurturing, playful side.

Mr. Voight melts into the role of the adult Wojtyla. He has the pope's Polish accent down cold, but also the wit, charm and willpower that turned John Paul II into a superstar even in the secular world. The mini-series has its own playful moments. In one scene, at the height of the crisis in Poland in 1981, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli (Ben Gazzara), then the Vatican secretary of state, pops his head into John Paul II's study and says, "The Americans want to know if the Vatican has a secure line." John Paul II gives him a goofily baffled look and replies, "What is that?" The Cardinal shrugs in an Italian pantomime of "Beats me."

"Pope John Paul II" is at its best when reliving the high points of papal geopolitics, especially the pope's emotional first trip back to Poland in 1979. The last third of the film lags a bit, mirroring the end of John Paul II's papacy, when his enemy was no longer Communism but secular materialism and his physical suffering at times eclipsed the clarity of his message.

Historians can quibble with both films on minor points, but even devout believers would be hard put to doubt the sincerity of either tribute. Both do their best to pay homage to an extraordinary figure and manage to do so in ways that are neither absurd nor embarrassing.



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John Paul Times II
CBS offers deeper, more effective portrayal of the pope than ABC Paul II

By Sid Smith Chicago Tribune arts critic December 1, 2005

Two major networks are about to unveil their competing biographical treatments of Pope John Paul II, arriving as sober-minded preludes to later, lighter holiday fare.

First, there's ABC's TV movie "Have No Fear: The Life of John Paul II" (7 p.m. Thursday on WLS-Ch. 7), followed closely by CBS' two-part mini-series, "Pope John Paul II" (beginning 8 p.m. Sunday on WBBM-Ch. 2).

The verdict is fairly straightforward. The more star-studded CBS effort (which concludes at 7 p.m. Wednesday) is twice as long and twice as effective.

ABC's "Have No Fear" is dignified and respectful, and it covers an even wider span of the late pope's life than the CBS venture. Scenes include two tragedies he endured before reaching adulthood: the deaths of his mother and brother. Even as a boy, he demonstrated the unshakeable faith for which he became so famous.

But the two-hour length of "Have No Fear" just about renders any depth out of the question. Thanks to commercials, the actual airtime is only 88 minutes. The movie is more a series of biographical announcements than penetrating drama. The future pope dabbles in the theater. He vies with the Nazis and becomes a priest. He struggles against the Communists. He rises in the church, survives an assassination attempt and engages in major spiritual and political matters of his day. All these important developments fly by too quickly, too superficially.

As Karol Wojtyla of Poland, and later the pope, Thomas Kretschmann conveys great piety, evocative in scenes capturing the pontiff's abiding humility, kneeling in prayer at his prie-dieu, lovingly clasping his rosary.

But Kretschmann is better at solemnity than charisma, inadequate at conveying those ineffable personal charms that enabled the late pontiff to be so easily and magically at home with millions worldwide. The pope's wit, sincerity and natural ease -- aspects admittedly hard to capture and convey -- are missing here.

Two actors portray the pope in CBS' "Pope John Paul II": Jon Voight in his days at the Vatican and Cary Elwes as Wojtyla in his days in Poland, ages 18 to 50. The Elwes portion, which dominates the first half, after a brief, harrowing depiction of the 1981 assassination attempt, is the more successful and interesting, partly because it's less familiar. Unlike ABC's abbreviated treatment, this version depicts in some detail Wojtyla's struggle against the Nazis and his deepening Jewish friendships, so key to his later historic visit to Israel. For all the Nazi horrors, the script achieves moments of sardonic wit. When he tells an actress he's becoming a priest, she responds, "You're joking, right?"

Elwes manages both a boyish idealism and an impish political savvy, tools Wojtyla employed even more effectively in thwarting the Communists, who consistently underestimated him, an ongoing source of humor in the movie. There's an almost idyllic scene of Wojtyla's early days guiding young people under Communist oppression, outwitting a pair of thugs who try to thwart a kayak outing. This first half provides insight into how his character was formed, how he forged his enormous resolve, how his faith deepened and how he developed a grand empathy for the innocent.

Voight portrays the later pope with subtle, actorly gestures and sensitivity, though his role is more that of a stand-in in a documentary covering such historic episodes as his support of Poland's Solidarity trade union movement and his appeal to worldwide youth. Still, Voight's cagey talents and a generally better script manage to capture at least a bit of the pope's irresistible personality.

Ben Gazzara, Christopher Lee and James Cromwell turn in fine character portrayals as important influences on Wojtyla's religious life. Probably the toughest competition for both these movies is the unavoidable fact that Pope John Paul II lived in a media age and proved to be such a superstar. The backstage Vatican dialogue is often pro forma set-up for well-known history and doesn't add much to our understanding.

But there are moments of memorable human interaction in both films, too, as when the pope visits his imprisoned would-be assassin, an act reverberating with his saintly, transcendent vision. It's left to Kretschmann, near the end of "Have No Fear," to utter the message fervent in both treatments: "At the evening of our lives, we shall be judged on love."



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John Paul Times II
Pope bios turn out less than divine ABC Paul II

Networks' Karol-ing trips bring uninspiring message
By David Bianculli New York Daily News TV Editor

The prospect of dueling TV biographies of Pope John Paul II is a lot more promising than the days when networks would do battle by presenting competing telemovies about the likes of Madonna, Mia Farrow and Roseanne.

That said, the two imminent dramas about the late pontiff are similar in more than subject: They're both disappointingly perfunctory and surprisingly unemotional.

Tonight's version, ABC's "Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II" (at 8), is the weaker of the two, and not because it tells its biography in two hours, instead of the four allotted by CBS to "Pope John Paul II," presented Sunday night at 9 and Wednesday night at 8.

"Have No Fear," starring Thomas Kretschmann as Karol Wojtyla, is anchored by many of the same set pieces as its CBS rival.

In both, we see Wojtyla displaying early prowess as an actor and scholar, and befriending a beautiful young woman. We see him studying secretly at a seminary as the Nazis occupy his native Poland, rising to the priesthood, and becoming a Catholic bishop at the age of 38.

"I am far too young," he says when offered the bishop post.

"That will be remedied in time," says his mentor.

That's from the ABC version, written by Michael Hirst and Judd Parkin, and directed by Jeff Bleckner. In the CBS version, written and directed by John Kent Harrison, Wojtyla says, "I am only 38," to which his benefactor responds, "A weakness you shall soon overcome."

That's how close the two narratives are.

Wojtyla defies the Soviets in Poland, rises through the church ranks to cardinal and, after a voting gridlock at the conclave to replace the justappointed, shockingly short-lived John Paul I, is elected in 1978 to become Pope John Paul II at age 58.

You'll learn, or be reminded of these events, no matter which drama you watch. On ABC, except for much more detail than from CBS about the aftermath of the assassination attempt on the Pope, that's about it. There's little time for anything else, save an author's message delivered in the form of a lecture to young students.

"Never, never give up on hope," the aging Pope tells them. "If the young aren't filled with hope, then nobody is."

Yet at least the ABC version brings up the allegations of child abuse against some priests in the United States. The CBS version shies away from almost all political controversy. And where ABC suggests that young Karol's rejection by a woman may have played a part in his seeking the priesthood, CBS shows him - already rock-steady in his faith and path - rejecting her.

CBS, in its four hours, has better scenery and more ornate sets and locations. Portions were shot in and around the Vatican and elsewhere, but in such scenes the architecture overwhelms the actors and narrative.

"Pope John Paul II" on CBS also has bigger stars who split the title role. Cary Elwes, puffier than in his "Princess Bride" days, plays Wojtyla in Part I. As Part II begins and Wojtyla is elected Pope, Jon Voight takes over. It's a distracting shift and it doesn't quite work - just like most other things in both of these stiflingly reverential, sadly superficial TV biographies.



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John Paul Times II
ABC and CBS present dueling bios of the Polish pontiff, neither touched with greatness
By Jonathan Storm Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist

Thirteen years ago, the Big Three networks hooked up in a race to see who could be quickest to make a movie about Amy Fisher. She was the infamous, jealous Long Island Lolita, 16, who shot the wife of her 30-year-old grease-monkey lover. All three films were pretty awful.

Ah, we've come a long way.

Tonight and next week, two of the three networks will display the results of their latest race. The quality's about the same, but instead of a shoot-'em-up sex-o-rama, it's a Pope-a-Palooza.

Tonight at 8, ABC broadcasts Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II, a Cliffs Notes hodgepodge that stuffs about 80 years into two hours. Sunday and Wednesday, CBS airs a mini-series. Its title, Pope John Paul II, perfectly reflects the originality of the effort.

John Paul fans might like tonight's show, which mixes the sentimental with the academic in a reverent, of course, examination of the life of one of the 20th century's key players.

Somewhat surprisingly, CBS's big-deal production with the name actors (Ben Gazzara, Christopher Lee, James Cromwell and Jon Voight as the Pope) and exclusive location footage from the Vatican is deadly dull. Obvious stereotypes mix with a confusion of characters in a stew peppered with repeating scenes of pontification.

Just because your film's about the pontiff...

"God has challenged us," a cardinal says as the college tries to pick a successor to Pope John Paul I. With the typical lugubrious pace of many mini-series ("OK, we've made a decent movie. What do we do for the other two hours?"), CBS challenges viewers simply to stay awake.

The show contains a miracle. After he's elected Pope at the beginning of episode two, Karol Wojtyla magically morphs from small-time actor Cary Elwes, who plays him almost all of Sunday night, into Oscar-winner Voight.

Voight depicts the vigorous, impish aspects of the Pope that helped make him so widely loved, and he ages exquisitely, displaying what truly appear to be the same sorts of painful infirmities that John Paul II was determined to share with the world as he demonstrated the importance of suffering in human life. From that angle, he would have loved this mini-series.

The Vatican itself seems to love it. Pope Benedict XVI blessed the project after a Nov. 17 screening at the Vatican. Two possible reasons:

The crowd that night was spared the drudgery of the first two-hour episode, seeing only a brief cut-down.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would have ended up on the cutting-room floor if he hadn't subsequently been elected pope, is depicted in a couple of scenes.

Even popes like to see themselves on TV.

The show depicts Wojtyla's (and Poland's) struggle first against the Nazis, next against the Communists. Nobody's saying these folks were paragons, but this is the eight-millionth time we've seen the Nazis as the usual goons, shoving Jews into trucks, shooting little boys in cold blood, and grabbing pretty girls off the streets.

The Commies look like mean chimpanzees in cheap suits who have lots of meetings.

"Make no mistake," says the chimp playing former KGB boss Yuri Andropov. "This pope is no friend of Marxism."

Unlike all those other popes who were.

If you're still aching to watch Pope John Paul II, note that Wednesday's installment starts at 8 p.m., not 9. CBS doesn't want to interfere with the CSI: NY ratings machine. At 10 on Wednesday, detectives find a dead doctor at the doll hospital and a recently living doll lying naked, natch, in her apartment.

ABC's film tonight (note that it, too, begins at 8) proceeds with a lighter touch, starting as little Karol makes a soccer save. "Was the hand of God," he quips.

The Nazis still drag people off, and the supposedly Communist soldiers still feel the spirit of Christmas and allow Bishop Wojtyla to celebrate outdoor Mass. But the apes are replaced by British actor Richard Rees, who imbues strongman Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski with a little humanity.

Thomas Kretschmann (a native of East Germany who played Nazi Capt. Wilm Hosenfeld in The Pianist) does a darn good job portraying Wojtyla from about age 20 until his death. Instead of changing into a different person when he becomes pope, Wojtyla in this one just develops a little more of an accent.

Partially because of its more cursory treatment of the Pope's life, the show seems less preachy and more emotional than the CBS effort, and more appropriate.

After all, it was Protestant ministers, not Catholic priests, who made their congregations sit still for hours and hours while they unloaded their stentorian sermons.



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Shoot me if you've already posted this....


"My Name Is Earl" and "The Office" Move to Thursdays to Join New Two-hour Comedy Block That Includes New Comedy "Four Kings" and "Will & Grace" While Drama "The Book of Daniel" Joins Schedule as New Series

"Scrubs" Returns with Weekly Back-to-Back New Episodes on Tuesdays (9-10 p.m. ET), "The Biggest Loser" Comes Back with Series of Themed Specials Titled "The Biggest Loser: Special Edition" and "Most Outrageous TV Moments" Becomes Weekly Series

BURBANK - December 1, 2005 - NBC adjusts its mid-season program lineup beginning the week of January 2 as the hit freshman comedy "My Name Is Earl" and "The Office" move to Thursdays to join a new two-hour comedy block that includes the new comedy "Four Kings" and "Will & Grace." In addition, the new limited drama series "The Book of Daniel" will premiere, "Scrubs" will return to Tuesdays and the "The Biggest Loser" will come back as a series of themed specials titled "The Biggest Loser: Special Edition."

Thursday nights will return to NBC's storied comedy roots starting on January 5 with an 8-10 p.m. (ET) block that includes "Will & Grace," "Four Kings," "My Name Is Earl" and "The Office."

"The Book of Daniel," which begins with back-to-back episodes on Friday, Jan. 6 (9-11 p.m. ET), will be featured as a limited series that will run until Friday, Feb. 3 - the week prior to the start of NBC's exclusive coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics on Friday, Feb. 10. "Most Outrageous TV Moments" will now become a series starting on Friday, Jan. 6 (8-9 p.m. ET).

NBC's "The Apprentice" and "Joey" will return following the Winter Olympics (additional details about NBC's post-Olympic program schedule will be revealed during the network's January Press Tour).

The announcements were made today by Kevin Reilly, President, NBC Entertainment.

"These mid-season adjustments allow us to showcase the season's top-rated new comedy in 'Earl' as well as the increasingly popular 'The Office' on Thursdays along with the new 'Four Kings' while we also introduce a great new drama series in 'Book of Daniel' on Fridays" said Reilly. "In so doing, we have the pieces in place to fulfill one of our goals -- to bring back a block of quality comedy to Thursday nights."

"Four Kings" and "The Book of Daniel" were previously announced as mid-season series at NBC's May Upfront. "Four Kings" will premiere on Thursday, Jan. 5 (8:30-9 p.m. ET).

After "The Book of Daniel" debuts with its back-to-back episodes on Friday, Jan. 6 (9-11 p.m. ET), it returns the following week (January 13) in its regular time from 10-11 p.m. (ET). "Dateline NBC" will then return in its new Friday time (9-10 p.m. ET) on January 13. "Most Outrageous TV Moments" -- originally a series of NBC specials -- will begin its weekly run as a series on Friday, Jan. 6 (8-9 p.m. ET).

"Scrubs" returns to NBC's primetime lineup with back-to-back original episodes on Tuesdays (9-10 p.m. ET) following "Fear Factor" starting Tuesday, Jan. 3.

Fresh off its record-setting season finale on November 29, "The Biggest Loser" will now return as a series of self-contained and themed specials in "The Biggest Loser: Special Edition," beginning on Wednesday, Jan. 4 (9-10 p.m. ET). The series will then run for five more weeks prior to the start of NBC's exclusive coverage of the Winter Olympics on February 10.

No changes will be made on NBC's Monday, Saturday or Sunday nights.

NBC's new mid-season schedule, which begins January 2, follows (all times ET); new series are in upper case (except "ER"):

8-9 p.m. "Surface"
9-10 p.m. "Las Vegas"
10-11 p.m. "Medium"

8-9 p.m. "Fear Factor"
9-9:30 p.m. "Scrubs"
9:30-10 p.m. "Scrubs"
10-11 p.m. "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"

8-9 p.m. "E-Ring"
9-10 p.m. "The Biggest Loser: Special Edition" (new title)
10-11 p.m. "Law & Order"

8-8:30 p.m. "Will & Grace"
8:30-9 p.m. "FOUR KINGS"
9-9:30 p.m. "My Name Is Earl"
9:30-10 p.m. "The Office"
10-11 p.m. "ER"

9-10 p.m. "Dateline NBC"
10-11 p.m. "THE BOOK OF DANIEL"

Movies and variable programming

7-8 p.m. "Dateline NBC"
8-9 p.m. "The West Wing"
9-10 p.m. "Law & Order: Criminal Intent"
10-11 p.m. "Crossing Jordan"


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Nielsen Report
A promising start for the new ?Nightline?
.First two nights improve on Koppel's numbers

By Abigail Azote MediaLifeMagazine.com staff writer Dec 1, 2005

After years of the same old thing, ABC’s ?Nightline? has a new look and a new format, with perhaps some new juice as well, based on ratings for the first two days.

Ted Koppel, who anchored the show for nearly 26 years, was replaced Monday by three new co-anchors: Terry Moran, Cynthia McFadden and Martin Bashir. The new team reports on three topics rather than one, as Koppel had.

The question, of course, is whether these changes will boost ?Nightline? out if its perennial No. 3 ranking in its timeslot. Early results suggest they might.

The show on its first two nights substantially improved "Nightline's" ratings over those of the earlier weeks when Koppel was still in the anchor's chair. Certainly some of that was sampling by the curious, folks drawn to the show by all the news coverage of the changes in format and faces.

Just how much will be clearer next week, when ratings for an additional week's viewing are out.

On Monday, premiere night for the revamped ?Nightline," the show aired more than an hour late, at 12:45, because of a "Monday Night Football" game that ran long. Yet it bettered the prior Monday's rating, and handsomely, averaging a 3.3 overnight rating from 12:45 to 1:15, up 18 percent from the previous Monday’s 2.8 rating. That Monday telecast was delayed as well.

On Tuesday, the new "Nightline" did even better airing at its usual time of 11:35 p.m., averaging a 3.8 metered market household rating.

That compares to a 3.3 rating for Tuesday, Nov. 15, the last Tuesday of a regular "Nightline" broadcast. (The following Tuesday, Nov. 22, Koppel aired his final broadcast, for which ratings were up substantially.)

Equally impressive, this Tuesday’s show nearly tied with CBS’s second-place ?Late Show with David Letterman.? If that trend should hold, that would put even more heat on ?Letterman,? which has been slipping this year.

But that's not to say everyone is impressed. Koppel may not have been a ratings magnet, but he was adored by critics as an icon of TV news, and his retirement was seen as a loss to the craft. That led to some fiercely negative reviews of the new "Nightline" format and anchor team.

?Something extraordinary has been replaced by the commonplace,? wrote USA Today’s Robert Bianco, likening the show to a half-hour version of ?20/20.?

?Now you have three stars presenting three stories; none were given significantly more time to develop than they would have found on most any other televised newscast."

Yet some critics see promise, one being the New York Daily News' David Bianculli. He found the premiere wobbly but believes the flaws can be remedied. ?Lock down the camera, and slow down the segments, and the new version of ?Nightline’ will deserve to retain its time slot, and stand a better chance of building on that proud journalistic tradition.?

Meanwhile, in other daypart ratings for the week ended Nov. 20:

ABC’s ?This Week with George Stephanopoulos? was the only Sunday morning show to decline, down 10 percent from the previous week to 2.3 million total viewers. CBS’s ?Face The Nation? grew the most, up 14 percent to 3.2 million while NBC’s ?Meet the Press? drew 4.5 million, up 12 percent.

CBS’s ?Early Show? saw the biggest gain for the week among morning shows, up 11 percent to 3.1 million viewers. First-place ?Today? on NBC declined 2 percent to 6.1 million while ABC’s ?Good Morning America? was flat week to week.

All three late-night shows were up this week, NBC’s ?Tonight Show? with 6.2 million total viewers, CBS’s ?Late Show? with 4.7 million and ABC’s ?Nightline? with 3.6 million. ?Last Call with Carson Daly? was down 6 percent to 1.5 million viewers.

In syndication for the week ended Nov. 13, ?Wheel of Fortune? was the top game show, ?Oprah? the top talk show and ?Everybody Loves Raymond? the top comedy.

For the week ended Nov. 27, all evening newscasts grew week to week. NBC’s ?Nightly News? led with 11 million total viewers, up 7 percent. ABC’s ?World News Tonight? averaged 9.3 million and CBS’s ?Evening News? 8.2 million, both up 3 percent. ?Nightly News? extended its lead over ?World News Tonight? by 30 percent, to 1.7 million total viewers.



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Sports On TV
Nascar Inks Rights Deals With ABC Sports/ESPN, TNT

By John Consoli MediaWeek.com

Nascar has reached separate, eight-year TV rights deals with ABC Sports/ESPN, and Turner Broadcasting, under which ABC/ESPN would pay $270 million per year and Turner's TNT would pay $80 million per year. The terms of the deal were first reported by SportsBusiness Journal and confirmed by Mediaweek through its independent sources.

Nascar has not officially announced the deal, apparently wanting to wait until it finalizes a deal with Fox for the remainder of the race telecasts. A Fox official said the network is continuing to negotiate and expects to reach an agreement with Nascar, but said nothing has been finalized.

Under the new deal, ABC/ESPN will televise 17 Nextel Cup races during the second half of the season [previously part of the NBC/TNT combined package] and all of the Busch Series races [which were previously part of the previous Fox package]. Among those 17 will be 10 "Chase for the Cup" races, which will all air on ABC. Most of the Busch Series races will air on ESPN2.

Turner's TNT will air six Nextel Cup races, three from the previous Fox package and three from the previous NBC/TNT package. Those races will air between the first half package, expected to be Fox's, and the new ABC/ESPN package.

Under the previous TV rights packages, which expired after this just-completed Nascar season, NBC/TNT combined paid $200 million per year for the second half of the Nascar season, and no Busch races. NBC and Fox split airing of the Daytona 500 in alternating years under the previous pact. Under the new agreement with Fox, which is still in discussion, Fox would air the Daytona 500, which opens the Nascar season, every year. Fox would also air 13 races to start the season.

ESPN and Turner/TNT officials would not comment on the deals, and Nascar officials could not be reached for comment.



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Originally Posted by fredfa
The November Sweep
ABC and CBS tie
?Rudolph? boosts CBS on the final night

Though ?Lost? averaged an 8.8, leadout ?Invasion? lost nearly half of that, pulling ABC down for the night.
Interesting, I thought last night's Invasion episode was probably the best one of the season, it jolted the whole series into high gear. I guess people got tired of the slow-moving previous episodes and didn't stick around.


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Originally Posted by fredfa
(From Marc Berman’s Thursday, December 1, 2005 Programming Insider column at Mediaweek.com )
Freshman Series Scorecard: Primetime Recap

Given the recent trip of cancellations -- ABC’s Hot Properties, CBS’ Threshold and Fox’s Reunion -- what follows is the updated status of the 31 new primetime series.

Killer Instinct: three additional episodes ordered.
oooookay...so is Killer Instinct cancelled....or not..?


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Originally Posted by DrDon

Shoot me if you've already posted this....


"My Name Is Earl" and "The Office" Move to Thursdays to Join New Two-hour Comedy Block That Includes New Comedy "Four Kings" and "Will & Grace" While Drama "The Book of Daniel" Joins Schedule as New Series
With as much trouble as NBC is having with ratings this year, you have to wonder if it's really wise to make scheduling changes to bona fide hits like My Name Is Earl.


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Shoot me if you've already posted this....


Not at all, DrDon, thanks.

I've updated the network schedules at the top of the thread to incorporate the new ABC, Fox, and NBC announcements.

I guess this seems to indicvate the end for "Three Wishes" and "Joey". Too bad, I thought "Three Wishes" was a sweet show.

On the other hand you wonder how anyone could ever have approved "Joey" in the first place.


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Originally Posted by keenan
oooookay...so is Killer Instinct cancelled....or not..?

Keen eye, Jim

Those episodes were ordered some time ago, and it since "Killer Instinct" doesn't appear on the Fox 2006 schedule. I'd say it is gone.

I would love to be proven wrong.


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Sports On TV
'Big Picture' powering NASCAR's TV deals?

By DAVID POOLE The Charlotte Observer

NEW YORK CITY - Why are networks about to agree to pay NASCAR around $4.4 billion in a new eight-year television contract when those who paid $2 billion less in a six-year deal that ends after 2006 lost money?

Because people who worry about how the numbers add up in sports-rights-fee packages miss the big picture, said Neal Pilson, the former head of CBS Sports who now consults with NASCAR on television matters.

"It's not about whether you're profitable in a particular time slot on Sunday," Pilson said Wednesday at the Sports Business Daily/Sports Business Journal Motorsports Marketing Forum.

"It's like going into a store and buying three bottles of Gatorade for $1 on special," Pilson said. "If that's all you buy, you beat the store. But the stores know when you come into buy Gatorade you're also likely to get eggs, cheese, milk, butter and bread. When you do that, the store beats you."

To find the true value of a television sports package, Pilson said, a network must consider what having a property - or, for that matter, not having it - means in the context of its entire programming picture.

When Pilson worked at CBS Sports, he said, he argued with the network president that CBS could not afford to allow Fox to outbid it for rights to NFL games. The president disagreed and Fox got the rights.

During the years CBS did not have NFL games, Pilson said, it lost affiliate stations to Fox and suffered a decline in ratings for all of its programming.

Pilson left CBS believing there was a direct link. But that opinion is not universally held in the television industry.

NBC decided in October to pull out of the current round of television negotiations, and its officials have declared their unwillingness to make any sports-rights deal they feel cannot be profitable. But Pilson noted that NBC is getting back into the NFL business after making the same decision CBS did years earlier. NFL telecasts return to NBC with a Sunday night package beginning next season.

NASCAR's television future will involve ABC/ESPN and TNT, and their deals are essentially done.

According to Sports Business Daily, ABC/ESPN will pay $270 million per year for the season's final 17 Nextel Cup races and the entire Busch schedule.

TNT will pay $80-$85 million for six Cup races in June and July.

Sources from two television networks, independently of each other, told the Observer late Wednesday morning that the ABC/ESPN and TNT deals would be announced Thursday at the annual championship week press conference here. But later in the afternoon, NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said no announcement would be made Thursday.

The holdup apparently is continuing negotiations with Fox for the first 13 Cup races each season in the new deal, including each year's Daytona 500.

Fox and NBC alternated having the Daytona 500 in the contract that ends next year, with NBC getting the season-opening Daytona race in its final year.

Dick Glover, vice president for broadcasting and new media for NASCAR, was scheduled be on the panel with Pilson on Wednesday. But Glover was a no-show and his participation in "active negotiations" was given as the explanation.

If Fox pays $200 million per year, roughly the same at it is paying in the current deal, that would make NASCAR's total television deal worth about $550 million annually for eight years - or $4.4 billion total.



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Howard Stern set for ?60 Minutes? profile

From Matt Drudge at drudgereport.com

Praying on air that the cancer suffered by his nemesis, then Federal Communications Commissioner Alfred Sikes, would spread was one of the more controversial stunts Howard Stern pulled. But the potty-mouthed radio jock says he has second thoughts about saying it now. Stern tells this to Ed Bradley and shows a softer side of his persona in a profile to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday.

"You know what," he tells Bradley, "I don't know that I would do that now. I'm older," says Stern, who at 51 is almost the same age Sikes was when he was diagnosed with the prostate cancer he eventually recovered from.

When Stern made the remark in 1992, his sexually explicit show had become the FCC's favorite target for fines, piquing Stern's ire. "When I get angry and really fired up and feel like my back is up against the wall, I will say vicious things," explains Stern. "Rather than hide that, I would rather put that out on the radio and let someone see the full range of [my] emotions," he tells Bradley.

Stern does not regret the remarks because, he believes, they make for good radio. "If you're going to be strong on the radio, you've got to let it all hang out - even the ugly stuff - and you can't apologize for it," he says.

Next month, Stern's extremely popular show moves to uncensored Sirius, a satellite radio network not regulated by the FCC. Sirius is paying hundreds of millions of dollars to Stern to single-handedly make the fledgling medium a success. Does Stern see his move from over-the-air radio as ultimately a defeat in his long battle against the FCC? "You could choose to look at it that way," he tells Bradley, "but I don't. I look at it that I won. I go to a new medium. I'm uncensored, and for me, it's a checkmate," says Stern.

Bradley's profile reveals a softer side of Stern. Instead of outrageous, Stern gets emotional when discussing his show's staff and very introspective when he returns to his hometown, Roosevelt, Long Island. There he suffered the effects of being one of the few white kids in a mostly black town, picked on in school and replete with bad memories that shaped his character and his show. "I think when you listen to me, you're an insider. You're in the club. We're not the guy in Roosevelt High School being goofed on when we're all together. We're strong," he tells Bradley.




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Originally Posted by fredfa
Keen eye, Jim

Those episodes were ordered some time ago, and it since "Killer Instinct" doesn't appear on the Fox 2006 schedule. I'd say it is gone.

I would love to be proven wrong.
Yes, I have no doubt it's gone as well.

Too bad, I really think if they dumped the male lead and installed someone who was more engaging this show might have made it.


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NBC to shuffle primetime lineup in January

By Cynthia Littleton The Hollywood Reporter Dec 1, 2005

NBC is looking to rebuild its Must-See TV comedy block on Thursday, unveiling a midseason schedule overhaul for Janaury that relocates its promising new comedy "My Name Is Earl" to the line of fire against CBS' top-rated "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

The peacock's makeover brings significant changes to Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. Starting the week of Jan. 2, NBC will move "Will & Grace" up from 8:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, followed by a new buddy comedy, "Four Kings," from the same creative team as "Grace." "Earl" and its Tuesday 9:30 p.m. companion "The Office" will relocate to the Thursday 9-10 p.m. hour in place of "The Apprentice: Donald Trump," with the night capped as it has been for the past 11 years by "ER."

"Joey," the "Friends" spinoff that has occupied the Thursday 8 p.m. slot for the past two seasons, will go on the shelf until after NBC wraps its coverage of the winter Olympics during the last two weeks of February. The next cycle of Trump-hosted "Apprentice" will also return to the lineup post-Olympics in an unspecified time slot, NBC said.

With the scheduling moves unveiled Wednesday, "we have the pieces in place to fulfill one of our goals -- to bring back a block of quality comedy to Thursday nights," said NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly.

NBC will fill the "Earl"/"Office" void on Tuesday with back-to-back episodes of "Scrubs," the returning series that has been waiting in the wings so far this season for a midseason berth, from 9-10 p.m. "Fear Factor" will also return to NBC's schedule in January in the Tuesday 8 p.m. hour. "Law & Order: SVU" stays put in the 10 p.m. hour.

On Wednesday, the peacock plans to fill the 9 p.m. hour after the finale of "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" later this month with special themed episodes of reality series "The Biggest Loser," which wrapped its second cycle Tuesday with strong ratings. New drama "E-Ring" and veteran "Law & Order" remain in their regular slots at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., respectively.

On Friday, NBC is benching its reality series "Three Wishes" for episodes of "Most Outrageous TV Moments" at 8 p.m., followed by newsmagazine "Dateline" and the new limited-series "The Book of Daniel," about an unconventional minister, in the 10 p.m. slot that in recent weeks has carried repeats of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."



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The Hollywood Reporter story says "Joey" has been shelved until after the Olympics.


But in my cancelled list at the top of this post, I am leaving it cancelled.

Hey, it's my list, (and I have been wrong before.}


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Back on speaking terms Dave and Oprah chat tonight

By Aaron Barnhart Kansas City Star

For 20 years there have been two constants in American television: Oprah and Dave. Yet for most of that time there’s been a palpable chill between the King of Late Night and the Queen of Daytime.

At last our long national nightmare is over. Tonight, at 11:35 PM ET/PT on CBS, Oprah Winfrey is the guest on ?Late Show With David Letterman.?

It’s not entirely clear why Winfrey refused to appear on Letterman’s show all these years — though the two most likely reasons are his repeated jokes about her weight problems and the nasty reception she got in May 1989, the last time she appeared with him.

Since then, Winfrey has allied herself with his rival Jay Leno, appearing several times on ?The Tonight Show.? Letterman’s attempts to humor her back to his guest couch have only made the situation worse, like his Academy Awards ?Oprah-Uma? routine and, more recently, the running bit on his show where he would write forlornly in his ?Oprah Log? that Winfrey was not returning his calls.

So why end the feud now? Maybe because Letterman’s program, which is based in New York, is the logical choice for her to promote ?The Color Purple,? the musical she’s producing. Maybe she knew the announcement would reap a timely deluge of positive PR during a sweeps month.

Or … maybe it’s that ?The Color Purple? will be playing at the Broadway Theater, one-half block south of the Ed Sullivan Theater, where ?Late Show? is taped.

Letterman loves to have a camera crew roaming outside his building.

Surely it occurred to Winfrey’s publicists that the Broadway’s marquee would give Letterman months of material, a convenient visual by which to further indulge his obsession with that famously upbeat billionaire who, for some reason, ?hates? him.

Perhaps, the thinking goes, if Winfrey puts up with Letterman’s nonsense in person for just one night, she’ll be spared a lot of his nonsense in the future.

Well, then put this down in your ?Oprah Log?: Fat chance.



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TV Notes:
?Scrubs? In, ?Joey? Out, ?Lost? and More!

by Matt Webb Mitovich TVGuideThursday, December 01, 2005

NBC RESTS JOEY, SCRUBS BACK IN: NBC has announced its mid-season game plan, and it goes a little something like this: Effective Jan. 2, My Name Is Earl and The Office, as speculated, move from Tuesday to Thursdays-at-9, where they will follow a pairing of Will & Grace and the new sitcom Four Kings (starring Seth Green, Shane McRae, Josh Cooke and Todd Grinnell). Filling the Tuesday void are back-to-back airings of new Scrubs episodes, which will have Fear Factor as its lead-in. Succeeding The Apprentice: Martha Stewart on Wednesdays at 9 is The Biggest Loser: Special Edition, a series of standalone and themed specials. Sandwiching Dateline on Friday are Most Outrageous TV Moments and the new The Book of Daniel, which stars Aidan Quinn as a reverend who sees and chats with Jesus. As for our pal Joey, NBC will bench the Friends spin-off until after its Winter Olympics coverage. Could we be less surprised?

SPERBER LOSES CANCER FIGHT: Wendie Jo Sperber, best known for playing cross-dressing Tom Hanks' confidante on the early-'80s sitcom Bosom Buddies, lost an eight-year battle with breast cancer on Tuesday. "The memory of Wendie Jo is that of a walking inspiration," says Hanks in a statement. "She met the challenges of her illness with love, cheer, joy and altruism. We are going to miss her as surely as we are all better for knowing her." Sperber's credits also included Michael J. Fox's big sister in all three Back to the Future movies.

THE SITCOM LIFE: Nicole Richie, who just signed on for a fifth round of The Simple Life (to air on E!), is back in bed with Fox, her reality show's original home. Per Variety, Richie has inked a deal with the network to have a sitcom developed around her or to be cast on an existing series, such as Arrest--. Er, I mean Kitchen Conf--. Um, Bernie Mac?

FAMILY'S LOVING LOST: At the seventh-annual Family Television Awards, which honor outstanding family-friendly viewing, ABC's Lost — whose Shannon and Boone, after all, redefined "family friendly" — was named best drama, CBS' The King of Queens took top comedy, CBS' The Amazing Race won best reality program and UPN's Everybody Hates Chris was declared the best new series.

SNL REUNION: Former Saturday Night Live star Tracy Morgan has been cast in a new NBC comedy being written by and starring current Weekend Update anchor Tina Fey. The as-yet-untitled series offers a behind-the-scenes look at an SNL-type program; Morgan will play the show-within-a-show's self-confident star.

THIS 'N' THAT: William H. Macy, Kim Delaney, William Hurt and Ron Livingston have been cast on TNT's eight-hour summer miniseries Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King, reports Variety.... DVD distributor Shout! Factory has licensed the entire library of horror movies hosted by Elvira, aka Cassandra Peterson. Watch for the first release around Halloween 2006.... Per the Hollywood Reporter, The N is going into production with its first dramatic thriller series, Whistler, centered on a snowboarder's mysterious death at a mountain resort.



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Nielsen National People Meter Expansion Continues

Addition of 2,000 Homes Nationally Marks Completion of First Phase;
LPM Homes Will Finalize Expansion

(Press Release from Nielsen Media Research

NEW YORK, December 1, 2005 ? Nielsen Media Research has completed one phase of its plan to double the size of its National People Meter (NPM) sample with the addition of 2000 households.. These new sample households are from outside of the Local People Meter (LPM) markets. The sample expansion plan to bring the NPM sample from 5,000 to 10,000 households was announced in 2003. It began in June of that year and this first phase was completed, on schedule, this fall.

Sara Erichson, General Manager of National Services, announced the completion of this important phase of sample quality improvement, noting, ?This is truly a vital achievement in our goal to provide clients with a robust National sample. As technology continues to fragment audiences and change the way viewers watch television, it is essential that we keep pace. Doubling the sample is one of the ways we are doing that. The expanded sample will provide a strong foundation for the innovations we will introduce in 2006, beginning with time-shifted viewing data.?

The remaining part of the sample expansion plan will be complete once all 10 of the Local People Meter markets are fully operational and integrated into the National People Meter sample, using weighting methods to compensate for regional impacts. To date, seven of these 10 markets have been integrated. In 2006, when the full complement of 10 LPM markets has been integrated, we will have completed the full sample expansion. This will effectively double the national sample from its 5,000 household size of two years ago. With the first phase complete, the effective sample size now stands at 9,160.

Why Expand the Sample?

The larger a sample is, the more projectable it is to the universe it represents. An equivalent sample of 10,000 provides several key benefits. Sampling error will be reduced by approximately 28 percent. As audiences continue to fragment, larger samples tend to produce more stable data. Larger samples also enable clients to evaluate more targeted demographic and geographic breaks. By the time the 10th LPM market, Atlanta, is switched over to People Meters in 2006, there will be nearly 13,000 homes contributing to our National People Meter Sample, with an effective sample, after weighting, of nearly 10,000 households.


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Spotlight On Couric:
Will Katie Stay Or Jump Ship?

By Roger Catlin Hartford Courant TV Critic

If it's true that Katie Couric intends to make a decision by the end of the year about whether she's staying at NBC, she's only got a month to do so, starting today.

Couric is the highest-paid news talent on network TV, leaping over Barbara Walters - and any of the network anchors - with her $10 million-a-year contract to host the "Today" show. Her lucrative contract expires in May.

It's been reported that CBS in particular has been trying to woo her, especially since it has been without a permanent anchor since Dan Rather stepped down in March.

CBS has floated a number of options for its post-Rather "Evening News," which has long been last in the big-three ratings. As Bob Schieffer has filled in, with his own folksy approach, CBS chief Les Moonves has said he's toying with the idea of more than one central voice for the job. He's said he's thought about bringing talent in from elsewhere, or even finding a place for Jon Stewart of the popular comedy "The Daily Show," which is part of the Viacom family's Comedy Central.

Hiring Couric as anchor wouldn't be as strange as some of those notions, but her chirpy demeanor and toothy smile - which fit the morning show so well - might seem out of place amid the usually dour evening news reports.

"Nothing would surprise me," says Rich Hanley, graduate program director at the Quinnipiac University School of Communication in Hamden.

But her talents wouldn't be put to their best use, he says.

"She does the morning show well. She's established a great rapport with the audience with that casual format, where the audience darts in and darts out. Her career is really based on that kind of agility," Hanley says. "The nightly news requires someone, in my opinion, who has more significant experience on the street as a reporter."

Though she began her career at NBC as a deputy Pentagon reporter, Couric has left most of the hard news on "Today" to the show's news anchor, Ann Curry. Also, Couric's co-host, Matt Lauer, has scored more of the newsworthy interviews lately, from getting President Bush to admit last year that he didn't think the war on terror could be won (later retracted) to holding his own opposite an agitated Tom Cruise.

Couric's biggest "get" this year, by contrast, was Jennifer Wilbanks, the Runaway Bride, whose name you might not even remember now.

Never mind how Couric would fit amid a weighty pantheon that has included Walter Cronkite, Eric Severeid and the brave TV news pioneers of Fred Friendly, Ed Murrow and Bill Paley currently being canonized in the George Clooney movie "Good Night, and Good Luck."

It may be a considerable adjustment to accept Couric as chief anchor for every future crisis after nearly 15 years as morning cheerleader, fluff flinger and eager promoter of every movie, book or TV show the stars come by to plug.

Just a month ago, on Halloween, she wore a full Marilyn Monroe costume (Lauer and weatherman Al Roker went as Batman and Robin) that wouldn't quite jibe with the sober face of network news.

And even if she did leave, who would replace Couric should she take the leap, either to the "CBS Evening News" or "to pursue other options"?

There's no shortage of ready women in the morning TV loop - from Curry and Melissa Stark, already on the morning show, to the large roster of MSNBC talent, including Natalie Morales, Alison Stewart, Amy Robach and Milissa Rehberger.

But would any of them have that spark of familiarity, perkiness and brains that made Couric the biggest "Today" star since Jane Pauley?

With NBC taking a swan dive in prime-time ratings, the network doesn't want to alter a show that continues to give it dominance, reigning over No. 2 "Good Morning America" in the most recent ratings by 700,000 viewers, with 6.1 million to the ABC program's 5.4 million. "Today" attracts almost twice the audience of CBS's "The Early Show," which gets about 3.1 million viewers.

Audiences took to Couric right away on "Today" and deepened their devotion after the death of her husband, Jay Monahan, of colon cancer in 1998 at the age of 42. That led to a successful money-raising campaign for cancer research and awareness of colonoscopies.

More recently, though, she's been stung by reports that she's becoming something of a diva, and her back and forth with Lauer can sometimes be shrill.Ironically, the buzz about her possible move to a more serious news venue came after an embarrassing episode Thanksgiving Day. Couric and Lauer, hosting the Macy's parade coverage for NBC, did not report the biggest news of the day, that an errant balloon had caused a street light to crash, injuring two.



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The November Sweep
Rudolph Guides CBS to 18-49 Demo Tie With ABC

By John Consoli MediaWeek.com DECEMBER 01, 2005 -

Producing its best 18-49 rating since 2000, the animated classic Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, on the final night of the November sweeps, guided CBS to an unexpected tie in the 18-49 demo with ABC, both producing a 4.4 for the 28-day sweeps period.

Heading into the final night, CBS and ABC were tied with a 4.4 rating in the demo, but even CBS execs were privately skeptical that the network would be able to win the night with ABC's blockbuster drama Lost in the mix. But Rudolph wound up producing a solid 5.8 rating in the 18-49 demo, winning by a sizable margin over ABC sitcoms George Lopez and According to Jim, and offsetting the Lost margin in its time period.

Both CBS and ABC finished the sweeps with a 4.4 rating in the 18-49 demo.

NBC finished third in the 18-49 demo during the sweeps with a 3.3 rating, just edging out Fox, which finished with a 3.2. UPN finished with a 1.5 rating in the 18-49 demo, while the WB was last among the broadcast networks with a 1.4 rating.

Overall in the demo for the sweeps, ABC was up 10 percent over last November, CBS was down 2 percent, NBC was down 18 percent, and Fox was up 7 percent. UPN was flat, while the WB was down 13 percent.

CBS won the viewers race, averaging 14.5 million, ABC was second with 11.6 million viewers, NBC was third with 9.5 million, and Fox was fourth with 7.7 million.



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Originally Posted by fredfa
TV Notes:

THIS 'N' THAT: William H. Macy, Kim Delaney, William Hurt and Ron Livingston have been cast on TNT's eight-hour summer miniseries Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King, reports Variety....
Sounds interesting, definitely an interesting cast.

Regarding TNT, 5 new episodes of "Wanted" begin on Dec 5 with 2 eps back to back on Dec 5.
:::: TNT WANTED ::::

Showtime's 9 ep mini-series, "Sleeper Cell" begins Dec 4. This one looks to be pretty good.

Sleeper Cell, Showtime dramatic television event.


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I'll post some "Sleeper Cell" reviews in a tomorrow or Saturday.

(And I am delighted "Wanted" will be back to help get us through a rerun-filed December! Nothing like a nice, violent show to foster that holiday spirit!)


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The November Sweep
Football kicks ESPN to No. 1 during November

?Monday Night Football? has had its three highest-rated games of the season the past four weeks, and Fox’s Sunday football delivered its best household average in three years. No surprise, then, that the red-hot NFL pushed ESPN to No. 1 in primetime on cable during November among total viewers, adults 18-49, 18-34s and 25-54s. The network saw increases of 10 percent or more in every demo, and four ?Sunday Night Football? broadcasts were the top-rated shows among 18-49s and 25-54s for the month.

USA, riding big increases from the return of ?WWE,? finished second in primetime in every major demo, recording year-to-year gains of 16 percent or more.

As expected, the three major news networks slid compared with last year, when the presidential election inflated November averages. MSNBC was down the least in primetime, 11 percent, in total viewers, but ranked No. 34 with 392,000 total viewers. Fox News was down 27 percent to 1.65 million total viewers, ranking sixth on basic cable, and CNN was down 24 percent to 718,000, finishing No. 25.



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It was posted that Joey was being pushed until after the Olympics. Have there been any press releases about how the programming for the Olympics will be handled this time?


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